Common names: Aptenia, Baby Sun Rose, Heart Leaved Ice Plant, Heart Leaved Midday Flower, Brakvygie; Ibohlololo
Taxonomic name: Aptenia cordifolia, Mesembryanthemum cordifolium
Uses: Ground cover, food, anti-inflammatory
Area of origin: South Africa
Aptenia, or ‘Baby Sun Rose’ is one of those plants that, even if you don’t have it in your garden, you know somebody who does. It’s a very common, very hardy, sprawling succulent Aptenia gets its name from its succulent, heart shaped leaves and from the pretty pink/red flowers that open in sunlight and close at night time, giving us one of the common names – ‘Heart Leaved Midday Flower’. The flowers are solitary, growing in the leaf axils.
The stems are angular and can become woody with age and it has a root system to match the sprawling nature of the above ground parts. Stems can reach up to 60 cm long and the whole plant can cover a few square metres.
Small, opposite, heart shaped leaves are rough in texture due to a waxy coating and small protrusions called papillae (kind of like what makes your tongue feel rough) and the presence of water cells that also give the leaf a shiny appearance.
Being a succulent, Aptenia has soothing properties contained in the mucilage in the leaves and it can be used externally as an anti-inflammatory. It’s edible too, the juicy young leaves make a nice addition to Summer meals and it can be cooked in the same way as other succulents such as Warrigal Greens or Purslane.