Drosanthemum speciosum (Haw.) Schwantes

Family: Mesembryanthemaceae
Common names:
Worcester-Robertson vygie, Red ice-plant, Berg vygie.

Drosanthemum speciosum

Brilliant, vibrant, stunning, barely describe this vygie, which is one of the plants that makes the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden in Worcester famous for its spring display.

In bloom in Karoo Desert NBGThe genus name Drosanthemum, was derived from the Greek words drosos, meaning dew and anthos meaning flower, describing the glittering water cells on the leaves of many species that resemble drops of dew.

Drosanthemum speciosum is a very colourful low-growing shrublet that grows to about 60 cm. The natural distribution is in the Western Cape, in the Worcester-Robertson Karoo and the Little Karoo. People from these areas refer to these plants as 'municipal workers' as their flowers open at around 9 a.m. and close around 5 p.m.

The Drosanthemum species are perhaps the most popular and spectacular of all garden mesembs. Few other plants can match the glowing intensity of a stand of these mesembs in full flower. They are fast-growing with small succulent leaves, and the scarlet, yellow or orange flowers bloom in spring to summer. (September-February).

Yellow orange form

Growing Drosanthemum speciosum

Succulent small green leaves and red flowersIn the garden the plants must be replaced after three years as they become woody and flower less. Plants can be watered moderately in winter, but should be kept fairly dry in summer.

All drosanthemums are very hardy plants, thus making them ideal water-wise plants for drier gardens. They can be used in the open garden or mixed borders. Today they are found in Mediterranean gardens throughout the world. The species has many colour forms to choose from, thus allowing the gardener to mix colours with other interesting plants. If not in the open garden, plants can be grown in a well-drained rock garden, on a bank to form a ground cover, or even in flower boxes to brighten a dull, sunny patio.

They grow easily from seeds that are produced in seed capsules in late summer. Sow the seeds in river sand in the autumn or summer (April or December), or scatter them over larger areas on a still day, after which river sand must be lightly sprinkled over the sown area. Cuttings usually root easily and are best taken after fruiting, from midsummer to autumn (December to April in South Africa).


  • Germishuizen, G., Meyer, N.L., Steenkamp, Y. & Keith, M. (eds) 2006. A Checklist of South African plants. Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report No. 41. SABONET, Pretoria.
  • JOFFE, P. 1993. The gardener's guide to South African plants. Tafelberg, Cape Town.
  • SMITH, G., et al. 1998. Mesembs of the world. Briza Publications, Pretoria.

Werner Voigt
Karoo Desert National Botanical Gardens
August 2002

To find out if SANBI has seed of this or other SA species, please email our seedroom.

This page forms part of the South African National Biodiversity Institute's plant information website www.plantzafrica.com