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Mesembs | Distribution & Ecology

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Mesembs Around the World
Distribution & Ecology


Mesembs can be found from northern Tanzania up to Yemen in Saudi Arabia (Delosperma spp.) down and across the Indian Ocean in Madagascar and west to the Cape of Southern Africa. 

Some Species of the Mesembreyanthemum family can be found around the Mediterranean Sea.  Australia, New Zealand and adjacent islands are home to the majority of Disphysma species while a few species of Carpobrotus and Sarcozona are restricted to Australia.  Ruschia and Lampranthus occur in Australasia but it is doubtful that these species are indigenous to the region.  It is also uncertain whether man introduced Malephora and Carpobrotus into South America.  Man undoubtedly introduced the populations of Carpobrotus found along the west coast of North America.

Most Mesembs occur mainly in the Southwestern parts of the African continent.  The Richtersveld, in the far Northwest corner of the Northern Cape of South Africa, has the highest concentration of genera and species, about 30 genera have been recorded to date in this region.  The further one goes east so the amount of mesemb genera and species decline.

most genera found on sandy gravel & well drained.

soils vary greatly from what to what silty flats - rock crevices, saline wastelands. (species) few species like humus - khadia - ebracteola

grow in crevices of rocks - image of cono in rock

these areas are predominantly winter rainfall - active growth in the cold wet season, hot dry summers survived by going into a dormant state.

few species adapted to summer delosperma, khadia - trichodiadema and certain ruschia like any season

pollination by insects.

seed dispersal hydrochastic, raindrops expel seeds (when conditions are suitable for germination and establishment of seedlings) or pods break off stem and disperse seed by wind as tumble fruits

distribution of seed by animals rare.

Mesembs have adapted to grow in various habitats, from rock crevices to silty flats as well as saline wastelands.  Without mesembs many parts of South Africa especially Namaqualand would be a barren desert.

Vygies are found --->

 The fruits differ greatly from one species to another, they may be complex ----->

Plants, like Lithops, survive more than just dry conditions they also have to evade detection by their hungry predators. These masters of deception employ mimicry to hide away from their predators, they have evolved to look like the pieces of quartz in which they grow.

The succulent Aizoaceae family which is sometimes placed in a family of its own, the Mesembreyanthemaceae, consists of 123 genera. These genres, "Mesembs" as it is commonly referred to, are commonly known as vygies, fig marigolds, flowering stones, midday flowers or ice plants. The plants from each genera differ substantially from one another, their fruit structure, leaf structure, flower colour and shape vary.  Mesembs have a widespread distribution, the majority of mesembs occur in Southern Africa and few species occur in northern Africa, Australia, New Zealand and around the Mediterranean sea. Mesembs that occur on other continents have most probably been introduced by man.