Lithops: Tiny Treasures of the Plant World

Lithops — a type of succulent plant commonly known as a ‘living stone plant’ for its rock-like appearance — are easy to take care of and grow.

| Spring 2016

  • 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.RareSeeds.com
  • These twin Lithops in bloom in a sea of many other types and varieties within the same green house. They are known to stay true to type and not cross-pollinate.
    Photo courtesy www.RareSeeds.com
  • Even within species, there are a great many different faces. There is such a beautiful variance of facial characteristics within the Lithops world, and the flowers stay interesting throughout the various stages of decline.
    Photo courtesy www.RareSeeds.com
  • Below the two flowering Lithops is a white seed pod that contains over 200, very tiny seeds, ready to be harvested. 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.
    Photo courtesy www.RareSeeds.com

Lithops are the enchanting little plants that have fascinated me for more than 3 years in more ways than one. 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. This is also one of Dawson’s favorite pastimes.

“In China, lithops are experiencing a boom because the middle class loves them and has enough time for hobbies. 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. It has really become a popular plant because space is often an issue,” Dawson noted as he talked about the increase in lithops popularity.



They can be grown as patio plants and then brought inside when temperatures drop. 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.

“Lithops are not poisonous to humans or animals,” Hammer said. He ate one and said that “It tasted like a green pepper!”






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