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Ice plant flower on Europa foreshore

The locally rare Ice Plant (Mesembryanthemum crystallinum) is flowering at Europa Foreshore for the second year in a row.

This is according to volunteer Bart Van Thienen, who has spent years clearing the area of invasive plants.

“I personally think it's the weirdest plant we have in Gibraltar and my favourite of the over 600 plant species we have locally,” he said.

“It is a succulent plant covered with bladder cells whose main function is to reserve water and it is one of the salt-tolerant plants in Gibraltar, growing very close to the coast line in poor rocky soil and needs full exposure to the sun.”

“The plant accumulates salt throughout its life with the highest concentration stored in the bladder cells. The salt is released by leaching once the plant dies,” he explains.

“This results in a detrimental salty environment preventing the growth of other, non-salt-tolerant species while allowing Mesembryanthemum Crystallinum seeds to germinate,” he added.

The plant flowers from spring to early summer. Flowers open in the morning and close at night and are insect pollinated.

Mr Van Thienen adds that the plant is very rare in Gibraltar and was only found in a small area on the East Side.

“I collected seeds from that area and spread them at the Foreshore in areas that looked similar but only on two of the four areas the plant grew,” he said.

“By growing it at Europa Foreshore the risk of this plant becoming extinct locally is now significantly reduced.”

“After the first seeds developed naturally last year, the plant is already colonising a wider area at the Foreshore so its future looks bright.”

Pic by Bart Van Thienen

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