Its sugared foliage stood out amongst the host of plants clinging to the coastal bluffs: red crystalline cresting the tips of green fleshy leaves. Dotted with white thin-petaled blooms and sparkly cherry red globes, this succulent glittered exotically along the trails of Crystal Cove State Park.
We wondered if it was poisonous -or a predator with petals that might enfold a wandering insect much as an anemone gathers in sea life.
With a little research I learned that the crystalline iceplant is indeed a predator -but that its appetite is for non-native habitats where it can out drink endemic species with its exceptional ability to absorb soil moisture. This South African plant is considered an invasive species to southern California’s coastal bluffs, releasing high levels of nitrate that are detrimental to grassland seedlings.
Fast spreading, it reproduces through its fruit and through “segmentation,” meaning that all shoots are capable of taking root. Uprooting the plant is the only sure way to contain it.
Invasive plants, lovely as they may be, are harmful to native environments. It is better that we travel to see them in their own homelands than find them as lingering guests overtaking our gardens and parkland. The iceplant’s leaves and fruit are edible. Perhaps California cuisine should feature this nuisance plant in a few house salads and fresh jams…?
Crystal Cove State Park; Irvine, California3 miles of Pacific coastline with underwater park plus 2300 acres of bluffs and wooded canyons!Hiking, biking (single track mountain & dirt road), fishing, kayaking, surfing, and “tidepooling”!Directions: Just off of the Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy1) between Corona Del Mar and Laguna Beach. Easy access via I-5, 405 & 73.Admission: Daily State Park Fee (good at multiple state parks on same day): $10 / Annual Pass: $125Weather Conditions: 949-494-3539Historic District Cottage RentalsPark WebsiteView Crystal Cove in a larger map6 Comments