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What Is a Livingstone Daisy?

By Britt Archer
Updated May 16, 2024
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Gardeners like the Livingstone daisy for its habit of carpeting a patch of ground with bright-colored blooms. A large garden bed or plot of land seeded with this annual flower is a cheery sight that provides non-stop color. The Livingstone daisy will draw butterflies to a garden and brighten up a dull spot, and it also does well in a rock garden or scattered along a walkway among paving bricks or stones.

The Livingstone daisy also is known as Dorotheanthus bellidiformis, but some seed manufacturers and gardeners still call it by its old name, Mesembryanthemum, a Greek word that refers to the flower’s habit of opening only in full sun. Another name for this succulent is ice plant, which comes from the plant appearing as if it is sporting small drops of shiny ice. These droplets, a kind of water blister, are known as bladders.

The bright flower originated in South Africa and was first described by a 17th century botanist. It is believed the name Mesembryanthemum was first ascribed to the Livingstone daisy in the mid-18th century. The seeds first traveled to North America by ship in the early 16th century, unintentionally mixed with sand that was brought aboard as ballast. When the ship landed in North America to take on cargo, the sand was discarded and the flower seeds took root, spreading quickly. One common use for the Livingstone daisy is as a form of erosion control.

The Livingstone daisy is drought-tolerant, and it performs best in a spot with good drainage. The only time to keep the soil consistently moist is while waiting for the seeds to germinate, which could take one to three weeks. A mature plant will protect itself from nighttime moisture in the air, and also in overcast weather, by its habit of opening only in full sun. The plant reaches 8 inches (20.32 centimeters) tall and a foot (30.48 centimeters) wide.

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