native pigface (Carpobrotus rossii)
This ground-hugging plant with its fleshy, drought-resistant leaves is at its most spectacular when it opens its bright pink flowers. Flowering happens at any time of year, depending on location. An introduced pigface species, Carpobrotus edulis, has yellow flowers.
Pigface is a valuable food plant. Its scientific name is derived from Greek words meaning ‘edible fruit’ – a fact well-known by Tasmanian Aborigines. For a guaranteed food source in dry, lean times they would camp close to the plant they knew as wend-dar.
Most valued was the sweet red tasty fruit, with a flavour compared to strawberries, figs, kiwi fruit and raspberries. The fleshy leaves were also eaten cooked, and the juice from the leaves was used to soothe blisters, burns and pain from insect bites.
Early European explorers used the plant as an anti-scurvy treatment.
Pigface shelters many small animals, including skinks, and provides food for birds. In some areas it is used by ground-nesting birds, and is a valuable soil-binding agent in exposed coastal places.
(Photos: Fiona Rice and Greg Jordan)
STUDENT INQUIRY QUESTIONS
Why do many coastal plants have succulent (juicy) leaves?
Why do pigface flowers only open when it's sunny?