lithops Liv­ing stones

The liv­ing stones

Manitoba Gardener Magazine - - Front Page - By Dorothy Dob­bie

Wan­der­ing through a suc­cu­lents col­lec­tion is like step­ping foot on an­other planet. Who knew that there was so much va­ri­ety and un­usual beauty in plant forms un­til we be­gan to ex­plore the world of suc­cu­lents?

Chief among these won­ders are the plants be­long­ing to the lithops fam­ily or more ac­cu­rately, the ice plant fam­ily. They are na­tive to south­ern Africa and the word lithops de­rives from lithos mean­ing stone in Greek. Their nick­name is “liv­ing stones” or some­times, peb­ble plant, be­cause they lit­er­ally look like the rocky ter­rain they grow in. This habit is one of sur­vival to pre­vent them from be­ing eaten in a some­times harsh land where any­thing liv­ing is fair game.

Lithops gen­er­ally con­sists of a pair or more swollen leaves, of­ten in colours of brown, cream, bur­gundy or gray, pat­terned at times with dots or lines, and with a slit be­tween them. Herein hides the meris­tem where the flow­ers will later emerge. If you come

across a lithops in the wild, what you might see is just the sur­face of the plant with most of the leaf buried be­low the soil. Look closely at the sur­face and you will see it is translu­cent, a de­vice known as the leaf win­dow, that lets in sun­light for pho­to­syn­the­sis. If things get re­ally rough, as in a drought, the leaves may shrink and dis­ap­pear into the soil al­to­gether. But when the rain falls and the sun shines, a lit­tle mir­a­cle oc­curs with the emer­gence of the leaves from un­der­gound fol­lowed by the flow­ers.

You would think that such a shy lit­tle plant could take care of its own pol­li­na­tion, but in­stead, lithops re­quires cross pol­li­na­tions from a sep­a­rate plant. They are not hard to grow and are not even that ex­pen­sive. You can get seeds on­line. Here is a short video of a lithops bloom­ing.

Lithops are known as liv­ing stones as they re­sem­ble the rocky ter­rain where they grow nat­u­rally.

Lithops hook­eri in blos­som.

Orig­i­nat­ing in desert re­gions, lithops re­quire very lit­tle wa­ter.

Moni­laria ob­con­ica – aka bunny ears.

The ex­otic Lithops op­tica var rubra.

Lithops is a low main­te­nance house plant.

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