Description[ edit ] Lithops hookeri. Two new leaf pairs are emerging between the old one, leading to a double-headed plant Individual Lithops plants consist of one or more pairs of bulbous, almost fused leaves opposite to each other and hardly any stem. The slit between the leaves contains the meristem and produces flowers and new leaves. The leaves of Lithops are mostly buried below the surface of the soil , with a partially or completely translucent top surface known as a leaf window which allows light to enter the interior of the leaves for photosynthesis.
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By Kelley Fowler Spring The sizes of the petals vary, and the shades are slight different between varieties. For those who love these plants, finding these subtle differences will be one of the things that fuel your desire to learn and grow more!
Photo courtesy www. They are known to stay true to type and not cross-pollinate. There is such a beautiful variance of facial characteristics within the Lithops world, and the flowers stay interesting throughout the various stages of decline.
In the wild, some are for the birds, some for the wind, some for the insects, some for the collector, and some will stay where they land to germinate and grow. Because of their rock-like appearance, they are often commonly confused with stones at first glance, and the only time you can really tell that they are a plant is when the lithop flowers are in bloom with their white, yellow, or rarely, pink petals. These little plants originate from South Africa where they mimic rocks for protection and camouflage.
Lithops have two very fat, specialized leaves fused together to create the head of the plant, one roundish structure with a crease in the middle. As years go by and the plant matures, lithops obtain more of these heads. The lithops thrive in rocky, gravelly, dry areas in Namibia and South Africa. They bloom every fall if they are healthy. Doug Dawson, a retired mathematician who travels to Africa each year to study lithops and other succulents, tells us that there are many different cultivars and varieties which growers and enthusiasts enjoy cross-pollinating to enhance desirable characteristics.
The population of the middle class in China is as big as all of the population in the U. S, and a growing number of Chinese are now enjoying lithops. Steven Hammer, author of Lithops: Treasures of the Veld, explained that lithops will often be found by roadways in their native habitat, away from other plants. But any sunny windowsill can support many lithops plants. If you are into small-scale gardening or small plants, lithops are for you! After the flowers fade and die, there is a tiny seed pod left containing approximately seeds.
Once it is thoroughly dry, you can grow your own lithops from seed — a particularly satisfying activity. Steven Hammer has a green house operation called Spheroid Institute in Vista, California, where he germinates them in July.
In theory, a grower should be able to sprout them any time of the year, according to Hammer. Each year lithops split or divide into a new plant. When daylight is increasing, cut back on watering because the plant is absorbing water from the old layers that it is going to shed. If you water too much during this time, you will set the plant back in this process, and it may be susceptible to rot or may not divide correctly. Dawson recommends watering the plants about an inch down into the soil every 2 to 3 weeks.
However, too little water will stunt their growth. If in doubt, it is better under-water than over-water. I moved my plants once, when I rearranged the furniture, and I put them in the shade of a bookshelf. They got longer, taller, and greener. But do not do this! They want sun. I put them back in a sunny window, and they pretty quickly went back to their original size and shape. Dawson warns against doing this too quickly, or plants could get sun burned.
I was lucky that mine adapted without issues. Lithops can live more than 40 years! They can even stay in the same planter for half that long or until the number of heads becomes so many that they crowd each other. Should your plants grow to this age, there may be a need to transplant. If the planter is big enough, you may never need to transplant them, except in the case of disease. History Lithops were not discovered by Europeans until two centuries ago.
According to the Flowering Stones , William Burchell was the first Western person to record anything about lithops. Burchell discovered the plant in A few other prominent researchers and collectors of lithops were J. Hooker in and Moritz Kurt Dinter, who was a well-known collector of succulent plants. Nicholas Edward Brown took it upon himself to better catalog and organize some of the succulent plant species.
He discovered two new species of lithops in and In more recent history, Desmond T. Cole is now the predominant explorer, codifier, and taxonomist of the lithops species. He is the author of the book Lithops: Flowering Stones. Desmond Cole is known worldwide and resides in South Africa. See the Flowering Stones website for a more complete history. There are fewer than 40 known species of lithops and they are widespread throughout the dry parts of South Africa and Namibia. Hammer said these plants are found on open bluffs, gravelly plains, or rocky ledges.
They thrive in tough situations where only drought-loving plants could survive. They also live on the tops and bottoms of cliffs, but not on cliff faces. In other words, they thrive in well-drained, sunny places. There have been a great many discoveries made between the s and the s. A lot of new roads were put in and better modes of transportation came into existence. That being the case, a lot of new territory was open to explore and new lithops were found. The process of finding new species of lithops still continues.
Tok e-mailed Steve a picture of this unidentified lithops asking for help in identification. Steve laughed because it was a brand new discovery! Everyone was excited. Cole was then contacted and Tok led Cole out to the locality to inspect the potentially new species in May In , Cole published Lithops amicorum as a new species.
More lithops species are sure to be discovered. With the current growing interest continuing abroad and through writings like this article, I hope you have gained a curiosity in these stone-like plants and will want to begin enjoying them for yourself! To learn how to raise these little plants in a container as simple as a red plastic cup, see: How to Grow Your Own Lithops. Kelley Fowler is a freelance photographer and writer. She lives with her family on the Navajo Nation in Northern Arizona.
She also does handwriting analysis and graphology and lectures on these topics. You can find her on Instagram where she documents all things Navajo.
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Lithops: Tiny Treasures of the Plant World
By Kelley Fowler Spring The sizes of the petals vary, and the shades are slight different between varieties. For those who love these plants, finding these subtle differences will be one of the things that fuel your desire to learn and grow more! Photo courtesy www. They are known to stay true to type and not cross-pollinate.
There has been debate as to whether this should be recognised as a family and it is often incorporated into the larger plant family Aizoaceae. There is great diversity of form among the mesembs, ranging from highly evolved miniatures such as lithops through to relatively normal looking plants such as the annual Livingstone daisy Dorotheanthus bellidiformis. However, if one compares the flowers of lithops and Livingstone daisies, the relationship becomes apparent. In between the two extremes, many mesembs have adopted the growth form of low shrubs with thickened leaves and in some parts of South Africa these form the dominant part of a vegetation type known as vygieveld; vygie or little fig being the Afrikaans name for members of the family. Some of these shrubby mesembs, for example lampranthus and carpobrotus, have become naturalised in milder parts of the British Isles such as coastal south Devon and Cornwall. Lithops occur sporadically in Namibia and much of South Africa, apart from the wetter southern and south-eastern parts. This distribution area mainly experiences summer rains and dry winters, although a few species grow in the winter-rainfall area of the Western and Northern Cape.