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Friday, October 25, 2013

Tongue-leaved Mesemb (Glottiphyllum regium)

Family Aizoaceae
Distribution and habitat
Glottiphyllum regium is restricted to the central Little Karoo region of the Western Cape. 

Glottiphyllum regium is a clump-forming succulent and can attain a height of 13 cm and a width of 15 cm. Branches are short and the leaves are oblong and tongue-shaped. Inflorescences are staked and flowers can measure up to 35 mm in diameter. The flowers are an iridescent yellow. Glottiphyllum regium is the largest and possibly the most attractive of the whole Glottiphyllum group. There are 16 species of Glottiphyllum found in South Africa.

Glottiphyllum regium has a semi-fibrous, shallow root system typical of succulents. The roots are not destructive and plants can be planted right next to structures.

Glottiphyllum regium is perennial and may live as long as 30 years in its natural habitat. In cultivation they may live for only 15 years. The main problem is people tend to over-water them, shortening their life-span considerably. Glottiphyllum regium is drought-resistant and as such is ideal for waterwise, sunny courtyard or container gardens.


Glottiphyllum regium flowers from June to late December, its peak flowering time being September. The flowers tend to open fully from 11:00 am as do many other Aizoaceae species. The reason for this is the need for sufficient sunlight and warmth.

Mainly bees pollinate the flowers during the day. In the evening the pollinators are most likely to be moth species. The family Aizoaceae (vygies) is the largest of the succulent plant families in southern Africa. Aizoaceae are almost endemic to the southern Africa region where it is estimated that there are over 1800 species. They occur from elevations of 3500 m to sea-level. Vygies occur in a variety of landscapes ranging from afromontane, karroi d and arid to subtropical coastal belts and grasslands. Vygies are even found growing on the most southern tip of Africa at Cape Agulhas.

 Uses and cultural aspects

Glottiphyllum regium should be cultivated more widely in public and private gardens. It is cultivated at the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden in Worcester and at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town. Another species, Glottiphyllum linguiforme, contains a small amount of oxalic acid. The African tribes are known to have made a beer from this plant and early Europeans have used Glottiphyllum linguiforme as a yeast, for bread-making.