Morphology and Betalain Characterization of ‘Iceplants’ (Aizoaceae) from the Coast of Wellington, New Zealand

  • Sumedha Madawala
Part of the Tasks for Vegetation Science book series (TAVS, volume 49)


Exotic and native “iceplant” species (family: Aizoaceae) are found in coastal habitats in New Zealand. Iceplants produce hybrids through cross-pollination. Their identification in the field is difficult. A field survey was carried out to morphologically characterize some iceplant species and a “hybrid” commonly found along the coast of Wellington, New Zealand. Iceplants contain betalains in place of anthocyanins. The color variations also make their identification challenging. In this study, the betalains were quantified and characterized using spectrophotometric and high-performance liquid chromatographic (HPLC) methods, respectively. The results revealed that the selected iceplant species, namely Carpobrotus edulis (L.) N. E. Br., C. chilensis (Molina) N. E. Br., red and green morphotypes of Disphyma australe (W. T. Aiton) N. E. Br., and a putative “hybrid” between C. edulis and Disphyma australe (red morphotype), possess distinct morphological characteristics and choice of micro-habitats. The native Disphyma australe (green) and C. chilensis showed restricted distribution compared to the other species studied. C. edulis and the putative “hybrid” C. edulis × D. australe showed the most extensive distribution along the coast of Wellington. The robust growth of C. edulis and its ability to form thick mats indicate its ability to suppress the growth and establishment of other plants, thereby reiterating its success as an invasive species. The hybrid also showed invasive potential due to its robust growth and ability to establish on different substrates. Betalain levels corresponded to plants’ red-magenta coloration with the lowest levels recorded in the exotic invasive C. edulis and the highest in C. chilensis. The HPLC analysis revealed six betacyanins in selected iceplant species, in different proportions and quantities. The study concludes that the iceplant species are easy to differentiate with the help of morphological characteristics. The results also support the idea that the putative hybrid has resulted from the cross-pollination between C. edulis and D. australe. The green morphotype of D. australe has shown restricted distribution, raising concerns for its conservation.


Betalains Dune vegetation Hybrid Invasion 



I would like to acknowledge the numerous contributions made by Prof. Kevin Gould and Dr. Stephen Hartley of the Department of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand during the conduct of this study.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sumedha Madawala
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Botany, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of PeradeniyaPeradeniyaSri Lanka

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