By Claryssa J Medina, Somervell County Master Gardener Intern
Succulents have been very popular among plant and flower enthusiasts for many seasons now. One group of succulents that get less notice than many others are Lithops. If you are unfamiliar with this type of succulent, please allow me to introduce them to you.
Lithops belong to the ice plant family, Aizoaceae. They are in the order of Caryophyllales, which are “flowering” succulents. Lithops are an angiosperm endicot.
Lithos means “stone”, opsis means “like”. Lithops are “living stones.” There are about 37 species and 145 varieties with new ones being discovered all the time.
Lithops’ native habitat is Namibia and South Africa. Most natural habitats for Lithops receive annual rainfall of 4” or less – a few rely soley on mist or fog as a main source of moisture. You can find them growing in quartz grit, stony ridges, sand, decomposed granite, shale, and limestone. This is when being “stone like” is a benefit! Lithops will get passed over as a moisture/water source by most animals as they mimic stones and keep a very low profile. Keeping a low profile helps minimize the effect of the intense heat and sunlight of their native habitat.
Lithops are able to survive this harsh environment because of their ability to store water – indeed almost the entire plant is devoted to this function! The Lithops design is two succulent leaves fused together with no stem. A tap root is connected at the base of the leaves.
When it is time for the Lithops to multiply, two new leaf sections will break forth between the fissure. Have I mentioned their flowering? Most bloom during fall or early winter with daisy-like yellow, pale orange, or white flowers. Blooms emerge from between the two leaf pairs and have an average height of 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches tall. They also have a sweet scent!
These little beauties are not for the faint-hearted or timid gardener. Hitting the sweet spot on watering and sunlight can be something of a game of trial and error, however, once your Lithops bloom for the first time after your gentle care and TLC, you will be hooked on these wonders of the succulent family!
Until next time, may all your gardens be green!