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The Mysterious Mezoo

March 19, 2010

It appears there is some seriously messed up nomenclature in the Aizoaceae (“ice plant family”). A fact I’d noticed long before I wrote this post.

My personal history with this family began at a certain campsite in a certain village in Sardinia, where I spent many a childhood summer. There was a plant growing there that became known in our family as ‘the campsite flower’. (No points for creativity there.) We brought cuttings home, along with a bunch of other plants – most of them stayed with us until my parents’ divorce and the subsequent move, but the ‘campsite flower’ died relatively soon.

Years later, when I’d all but forgotten about the plant, my mother showed me what she’d been given by our neighbour – a ‘campsite flower’. Childhood memories came flooding back, but by then I was old enough that the lack of a proper name started bugging me. Still, it was entered into the plant list as ‘Campsite Flower’, because I didn’t even know what family it might be.

Aptenia cordifolia

In 2007, I stumbled upon a plant with similar flowers at a horticultural show and changed the list to ‘possibly a Delosperma species’.

It took me another year until I happened on a familiar-looking picture in a plant encyclopedia (Botanica, which could easily be used as a murder weapon) – the ‘campsite flower’ was Aptenia cordifolia.

The next year, I was wandering around the school greenhouses and came upon two Aptenias, freshly tagged for the upcoming Open Day. As ‘Portulaca grandiflora‘. Ouch. Just ouch!

I went up to the greenhouse teacher the next day and begged her to change it. Messed-up names annoy me no end.

Which brings us back to the mysterious ‘Mezoo’.

Syngenta: Dorotheanthus bellidiformis 'Mezoo Trailing Red'

Syngenta (and apparently everyone else) calls ‘Mezoo Trailing Red’ Dorotheanthus bellidiformis. Which I absolutely refuse to believe.

I’m no longer convinced it is Aptenia cordifolia, either. Not just because Theatrum Botanicum disagrees – it looked a lot like Aptenia when we got the little plants, and the leaves were still small, but now they’re a lot bigger than I’ve ever seen on any Aptenia. Although Wikipedia says Aptenia leaves can get up to 3 cm long, and the ‘Botanica’ says 2.5 cm, and that’s about the size the leaves were when I last checked this morning.

Either way, they’re not Dorotheanthus bellidiformis. I had to check the seed shop in the town centre and two garden centres, but I got my Dorotheanthus seeds at last.

Dorotheanthus bellidiformis

Just so I can prove what I knew all along, that they’ve got totally different leaves. Different flowers, too, I guess, though my first attempt at growing them, back when I was 15 or 16, wasn’t very successful, so I never got flowers. I hope to get some this year, for additional proof.

And since I was already in the garden centre, I browsed the bookshelves, too, and finally found a halfway decent book on balcony plants. Which I bought. I took a brief look into it on the way back to my bike, and ouch. Ouch.

Carpobrotus edulis?

That’s no Dorotheanthus bellidiformis, either. Or else all the seed companies, ‘Botanica’ and most people who’ve got pictures online have got it wrong.

It looks kinda like this, which I photographed in Italy a couple of years ago (and also saw growing in Sardinia):

Carpobrotus edulis?

Might be a kind of Carpobrotus, but it’s too late today to do any real research.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 20, 2010 18:13

    Aizoaceae basically needs to be completely deleted from everyone’s collective memories and all the general need to be forgotten so we can just start over. The more I’ve thought about it your plant almost seems like a polyploid Aptenia cordifolia except that the flowers aren’t any bigger than the standard one. I wonder if polypolidy ever increases the leaf size and not the flower size? Because the leaves do look like giant Aptenia leaves. And I definitely agree that the above plant isn’t Dorotheanthus. Caprobrotus does seem like a good match. Taxonomy is so… headache inducing.

  2. March 20, 2010 18:23

    I’ve decided I’m going to pot up one of my Aptenia cuttings, try to feed it well, and see how big the leaves do get. And definitely get one of the ‘Mezoo’s from work to watch and compare the two.

    And definitely agreed on the headache-inducing-ness!

  3. karen permalink
    March 27, 2010 13:33

    When I posted a pic of mine at GW I was told it was aptenia cordifolia. In CA, where I got it, they refer to it as iceplant.
    Mine looks like yours. It is a great houseplant for winter in a S. window. It is easy to start from cuttings. The flower is slightly larger than a thumbtack head and opens and closes ea. day. As the years go by it flowers less then when it was newer. Perhaps it prefers CA to IL. I’m opting to leave it out of my outdoor summer garden this year. There are so many things more showy.

    • March 27, 2010 14:01

      I’ve done a bit of googling since posting this, and it appears several other people have discussed this, and have also come to the conclusion that ‘Mezoo’ is Aptenia cordifolia.


  1. The Mysterious Mezoo, Part 2 « Letters & Leaves
  2. The Mysterious Mezoo, Part 3 « Letters & Leaves

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