Dew Flower (Drosanthemum candens), a South African member of the ice plant family that has sparsely established around Port Phillip Bay as well as on inland cuttings within the metropolitan. For three straight springtimes, this plant’s flashes of pink fluorescence have been a mysterious addition to my morning commute, lodged as they have been within the steep, off-limits slopes of the inner metropolitan’s railway cuts. Now, here it is in its sprawling bubblegum glory.
I should note that in this suggested ID, I am forced to be somewhat reliant on the official position that this is the only species of Drosanthemum naturalised in Australia. While clearly distinguished from related and popularly familiar genera such as the pigfaces (Carpobrotus et al), I don’t feel entirely confident that D. candens is the only one of 95 Drosanthemum species to have been available in the trade here and to have had the opportunity to slip cultivation into free growing obscurity.
Also known by the seemingly apocryphal appellation ‘Redondo Creeper’, the plant stores water in glistening papillae on its exterior, hence the generic ‘ice plant’. It grows with a trailing form produced by the hairy runner stems, from which extend small branching towers of succulent leaves culminating in solitary flowers. The species was apparently recorded in Victoria at Black Rock in the 1920s, and then at Beaumaris in 1952, and then more frequently from the 1980s over a somewhat broader area. Its occurrences in the vicinity of Port Phillip Bay are easily explained: it is an attractive nursery purchase: a tough and effusive coastal plant with a ‘nativish’ appearance. In contrast, the question of how Dew Flower has ended up at so many inland sites in Melbourne is an outstanding mystery that we can hopefully unpack further.