Mesembryanthemum croceum Jacquin, Fragm. Bot., 17. 1800; Crocanthus croceus (Jacquin) L. Bolus; Hymenocyclus croceus (Jacquin) Schwantes; M. instititum Willdenow
Subshrubs. Stems light gray- brown, exterior fissured, barklike, to 2 cm diam., corky, becoming woody with age. Leaves crowded at end of short shoots, pale green, sometimes red tinged; blade triangular in cross section, 2.5-6(-12) × 0.6 cm, apex blunt, glaucous. Inflorescences terminal, flowers solitary; pedicel 1-6 cm. Flowers: calyx 0.8-1.5 cm; calyx lobes (4-)5(-6), 3 longer, with translucent margins, 2 shorter, apex acute; petals 40-65, purplish abaxially, orange adaxially, sometimes completely yellow, orange, or red, 4-12 mm; nectary present; stamens 2-5 mm; filaments connate basally, forming dense ring, white-hairy; ovary inferior. Capsules obcuneiform, 8(-12)-loculed; adaxial seed pockets with bifid placental tubercles. Seeds ca. 75, 3-15 per locule, 1 × 0.8 mm. 2n = 36.
Flowering mostly spring-summer. Margins of coastal wetlands and bluffs; 0-100 m; introduced; Calif.; Mexico (Baja California); Africa.
Malephora crocea is grown as an ornamental and often sold as a ground cover for landscaping. It is cultivated along freeways as far north and inland as Fresno, California.
Two varieties of Malephora crocea have been recognized: var. crocea, with the adaxial surfaces of the petals orange and the abaxial surfaces purplish; and var. purpureocrocea (Haworth) H. Jacobsen & Schwantes, with petals purplish on both surfaces, which is grown for ornamental purposes and is not naturalized in the flora.
Ferren, W. R. Jr., J. E. Bleck, and N. J. Vivrette. 1981. Malephora crocea (Aizoaceae) naturalized in California. Madroño 28: 80-85.