The scientific name of the ice plant is Mesembryanthemum, literally meaning mid day flower. The flower of the ice plant would close up at night time and only open when the sun is at its highest, to protect its gametes (reproductive organs) from night dews and frost.
Ice plant is native to southern Africa. It only reached Europe and America in the 18th century. Ice plant is named for its glistening and transparent swellings all over the surface of the leaves and stems. Both the leaves and the stems are edible and gives a great crunch when eaten either raw or cooked. The leaves and stems are very thick and succulent with a slightly salty tang to them.
The ice plant accumulates salt. When the plant dies, salt is leached out into the soil, making it difficult for anything else to germinate in saline soils. It is surprising a plant with such high water content can thrive in arid climates. The “pores” on the leaves will hold their breath during the day, and only breath after the sun goes down, to preserve as much moisture as possible. The ice plants are so full of moisture, the Californians plant them around their houses to protect their properties against wildfires.