Sun, soft sand, an endless horizon: an Australian summer at the beach. But many times what’s holding all this in place is a small, oddly shaped plant with an even odder name: pigface.
It rambles over the dunes from coastal Victoria to far north Queensland, putting up fat, squishy, triangular-shaped, blue-green leaves and throwing out psychedelic splashes of bright crimson or purple daisy-like flowers with yellow centres. Surprisingly, the flowers bear no resemblance to the face of a pig, unless you’re hallucinating.
But it’s what’s happening under the sand that’s important. The root system is holding the dunes together, helping prevent the sand from slipping into the sea.
Obviously extremely salt and wind tolerant, this prostrate, creeping succulent should be a feature of every beach cottage garden, especially where erosion can be an issue. They work inland as well, helping to keep stable a steep slope, and look fantastic in rock gardens where the soft foliage works a treat against the harsh elements of your miniature lunar landscape.
As a succulent, it copes extremely well in areas subject to extended dry periods, but, like most succulents, only wants to put its feet down in sandy, free-draining soils. Unlike many succulents, it has no spikes, scales or prickles so it’s great for a child-friendly garden.
Its botanical name is Carpobrotus glaucescens, which is botanical speak for edible fruit, but the flowers and juicy leaves are also edible. Salty, but tasty.
The juice from the leaves can also be used to help relieve skin burns, bites and stings, in much the same way as another succulent, aloe, does.
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