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Image of Cephalophyllum

James H. Schutte



Botanical Name


Plant Common Name


Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

This little-known genus of succulent perennials contains 60 species of what is commonly called iceplant. It is a coastal species found along the southern tip of Africa both east and west of the Cape of Good Hope. The plants are ground hugging dense mats of thick leaves that dwell in the sandy dune lands and rocky outcrops found in the maritime climate areas.

Cephalophyllum species are creeping plants that produce thick blue green leaves with a curiously half rounded tips. Leaves rise of thick leathery stems that creep, rooting as they go, making this an easy to propagate group. Among South Africans, this is considered the most spectacular of all iceplants, due to the intensity of petal colors and that of the multitude of stamens within these daisy-like flowers. Among the many species are flowers in yellow, red, purple and white, each followed by small green fruits.

Only two species are grown, but rarely outside South Africa. Plants tend to perform poorly except in southern California where day length and light intensity mirror that of their homeland. These succulents are not widely successful in greenhouses. The primary species in cultivation and considered the most beautiful is Cephalophyllum alstonii bears ruby red petals and violet stamens. More unique but highly valued is Cephalophyllum spongiosum, a shrubbier form that bears vivid red blossoms.

In the wild these plants are found in coastal conditions which indicate a tolerance for alkaline soils, salt air and low fertility. Like all succulents they will be liable to rot if provided too much water, and cannot tolerate dry inland heat. This has limited their cultivation to a very small are of western interest where coastal conditions are largely rainless during the long dry season.


  • Plant Type

    Cactus or Succulent

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Native To

    Southern Africa

Growing Conditions

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Growth Rate


  • Water Requirements

    Xeric/Desert, Drought Tolerant

Ornamental Features

  • Fragrant Foliage


  • Evergreen


Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Groundcover, Rock Garden / Wall