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Plant identification guides:
Bush tucker food forest

Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.


As with all medicinal applications of Australian bush foods, please do your due diligence and consult with First Nations or other Australian herbal specialists before utilising as a remedy for any condition.


Some parts of the plant may not be edible or some may need preparation before they are safe to eat or use in any way. We do our best to describe their traditional & modern uses. It is the reader’s responsibility to ensure they are fit for their intended use.


We can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.


Scientific name:

Other Names:

Carpobrotus glaucescens 

Iceplant, sea fig, angular sea-fig, sea banana, noon flower


Aizoaceae (fig-marigold family) (Latin for "evergreen" or "ever living")


Basic info:

Pigface is a “prostrate” plant, meaning that most of its branches lie on or just above the ground, rather than being held erect as are the branches of most trees and shrubs.

It is a creeping succulent that has long trailing stems that can grow to 2m long, which root at nodes along the stems. From these nodes the plant produces upright leafy branches.

It has thick, fleshy, smooth leaves, which are triangular in cross section. The plant grows to form a groundcover that can cover a large area.

The plant is found growing naturally in near-coastal areas of Queensland, south from near Mackay to New South Wales and the far east of Victoria.  

It grows on the front of sand dunes and acts as a stabiliser where it helps to bind the sand, allowing more effective sand stabilisers such as spinifex grass to take a hold. Being a pioneer species, it is important in paving the way for more complex communities.

As would be expected, it is very salt tolerant and is able to withstand salt spray, strong winds and sand blast. Pigface is a coastal variety of saltbush, a halophyte which means it can adapt to high saline soils or water. It does this by either excreting salt or absorbing a lot of water to keep a healthy balance.

Succulents such as pigface have adapted a remarkable strategy to maintain their water content – they are “night-time breathers”, meaning that they store carbon at nighttime, enabling them to close the pores in their leaves during daytime to avoid moisture loss.

If covered with sand the plant can survive, grow upwards and produce a new plant mat over the old one. In a garden, it is very useful for wind erosion control and for binding loose sandy soils. Pigface can also tolerate extended dry periods and is a fire retardant.

The plant produces large, striking, deep pink-purple flowers from October to January, but also can flower sporadically throughout the year.

The flowers have a remarkable similarity to those of daisies (Asteraceae) but they’re completely different. Daisy flowers are actually an aggregation of numerous tiny flowers, often with petals on only the outer ring of flowers, giving the appearance of one large flower. In contrast, flowers of Carpobrotus are exactly what you see, quite large, individual flowers, but the peculiar thing is that they don’t have petals! The colourful petal-like structures that ring the flowers are modified stamens, known technically as petaloid staminoides – in other words, stamens that look like petals.

The flowers open only when there is sunlight – they close at night to protect the staminoides from the frost and dew (which is also why they are called ‘noonflowers’).

The fruit of the plant is a red-purple berry fruit with two horns that look like the ears of a pig (hence the common name, Pigface). The fruit ripens in summer and autumn, when the flower is pollinated and spent. The fruiting body swells up and turns deep red, so they’re easy to spot on the otherwise green plant.

The fruits of pigface are also known as beach bananas because the flesh inside their thick reddish skin resembles a small salty banana.

The plant attracts bees, butterflies and many insects.

Origin of scientific name: from the Greek, carpos – fruit, and brotos – edible; glaucescens, from the Latin, glaucus – bluish green.

Uses and Interesting Information:

Every part of this plant is edible and/or medicinal, from leaves to fruit to flowers to roots. The plant was avidly gathered by Indigenous people, who eagerly awaited their summertime ripening and used it as a main source of food when it was in season. Aboriginal family bands would often establish camp next to broad expanses of fruiting pigface in order to supplement their fish and seafood diets.

The flesh of the fruit has a flavour described by some as like salty strawberry by others as like salty apples. As one person puts it: “somewhere between a kiwifruit and a strawberry and maybe a fig, with a good whack of salt”.

To access the fruit, turn it upside down so that the horns face downwards, and squeeze the bottom of the fruit into your mouth to collect the juice, seeds and fruit, discarding the skin.  The little fruit is white and brown, it should pop out easily, if it doesn’t it is not ripe.

The berry has very high mineral levels, including potassium, magnesium, and calcium. The combination of sugars and salts makes it an excellent fruit for re-hydration.

White settlers used the fruit for jams and jellies.

The plump, fleshy leaves can also be eaten – raw, cooked or pickled. Early settlers ate the leaves boiled up like spinach; many diaries of early explorers and settlers recorded positive entries on the edibility of these “greens”.

To reduce the astringency of the leaves, it is recommend to cook them in simmering water with a change of water. It is known to combine well with mushrooms, egg and seafood.

The roasted leaves may be used as a salt substitute (rinse lightly before use as a substitute for salt in meat dishes, or as a unique addition to salads and savoury dishes). The skin of the leaves can also be dried as a salt substitute, just like kombu seaweed is used and the taste is remarkably similar.

Both the leaves and fruit have medicinal properties. Early European explorers used the plant as an anti-scurvy treatment. Some studies suggest that plant leaf extracts and flowers possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, as well as anti blood-clotting properties.

The juice of the leaves can be used to relieve burnt skin (similar to aloe vera) or to soothe stings, such as from biting midges or bluebottles (and some say even snake bites). The juice from the leaves can also be mixed with water and used as a gargle for sore throats and mild bacterial infections of the mouth. The Ngaruk willum people of Port Phillip Bay in Victoria used it as a balm to minimise pain.

The fruit has also been used as a laxative, as well as to solve ringworm, eczema, dermatitis, herpes, thrush, cold sores, cracked lips, chafing, skin conditions and allergies.

A traditional medicament for tuberculosis is done by using a combination of equal proportions of leaf, juice, honey and olive oil mixed with water.

The leaves also make a great green manure (either mowed or mashed) or you can put some in a bucket of water and let in rot down for a week or so, then use the compost tea on seedlings to give them a little boost.

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