Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Carpobrotus glaucescens, Purple Noon Flower

Carpobrotus glaucescens
This spreading ground cover succulent is found along the sandy beaches of New South Wales and Queensland growing just above the high tide mark and also in the hind dune plant communities. I have seen it growing well in semi shade and even bordering swampy ground inhabited by the knobby club rush, Ficinia nodosa.
It is a versatile plant and has now become a popular landscaping choice away from the coast. It is used to great effect at Sydney Airport in the public gardens which welcome visitors to the country. Over summer it makes rapid growth, quickly covering a large area and is frequently smothered by purple flowers which are often given the name of coastal noon flower. The fruits which follow the flowers are edible and have the taste of salty apples but good fruit development requires the bright sun reflection of sand dunes and as such, garden specimens often don't go on to to develop fruit to maturity.  As the plant ages the leaves become red tinged and eventually wither and this can make for some unsightly patches. Regular tip pruning keeps the growth looking uniform but eventually the whole plant and its rope like growth may need to be removed and replanted with fresh specimens.
 I always associate this plant with the Arthur Streeton painting pictured below. It captures the glare of a hot summer day along the Hawkesbury River west of Sydney. 

The purple noon's transparent might (1896)
Arthur Streeton (1867 -1943)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne