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Aizoaceae (the fig-marigold family) is a large family of dicotyledonous flowering plants containing 135 genera and about 1900 species. They are commonly known as stone plants or carpet weeds. They are often called vygies in South Africa and New Zealand. Species that resemble stones or pebbles are sometimes called mesembs. Several species are known as ice plants because of the glistening globular bladder cells covering their stems, fruit and leaves, "... they sparkle like ice crystals."
The Aizoaceae family is widely recognised by taxonomists. It once went by the botanical name "Ficoidaceae", now disallowed. The APG II system of 2003 (unchanged from the APG system of 1998) also recognises the family, and assigns it to the order Caryophyllales in the clade core eudicots. The APG II system also classes the former families Mesembryanthemaceae Fenzl, Sesuviaceae Horan. and Tetragoniaceae Link under the family Aizoaceae.
Most species (96%, 1782 species in 132 genera) in this family are endemic to arid or semiarid parts of Southern Africa. Most of these species are succulents and belong to the subfamilies Mesembryanthemoideae and Ruschioideae. A few species are found in Australia and the Central Pacific area.
Most fig-marigolds are herbaceous, rarely somewhat woody, with stems growing either erect or prostrate. Leaves are simple, opposite or alternate, and more or less succulent with entire (or rarely toothed) margins. Flowers are perfect in most species (but unisexual in some), actinomorphic, and appear singularly or in few-flowered cymes developing from the leaf axils. Sepals are typically five (3-8) and more or less connate (fused) below. True petals are absent. However, some species have numerous linear petals derived from staminodes. The seed capsule has one to numerous seeds per cell.
Several Aizoaceae are edible, including:
A few species have been introduced as cultivated plants. Ice plant thrives in southern California. People surround their property with it to act as a firewall to protect against wildfires; it does burn if not carefully maintained.