Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pensive Tuesday: How Are We Changing Lithops?

A couple days ago, I saw a post on "Blog of a plant-whisperer" about size change in Lithops that got me thinking about my post from almost a year ago, "How Are We Changing Them?"

http://mylifeamongthelithops.blogspot.com/2012/07/pensive-tuesday-how-are-we-changing-them.html

My Lithops have had a nearly a year since then to grow and change, and I've made some observations that relate to that long-ago post.



Some Lithops, most certainly from ancestors that were "domesticated" at least 10 generations ago, seem to need less light and more water than their wild cousins. It makes sense, because in order to survive nursery life, particularly big-box nursery life, they are going to get a lot more water than they require in the wild. And they're usually grown under covers of some sort, so they don't always get full sun. Those Lithops that can't cope with the excess water and diminished light are going to rot. Those than can handle it, for unknown genetic reasons, will be propagated and continue to be sold throughout the world.

L. dorotheae, May 2013

Some of my Lithops that didn't seem to be thriving completely with the very minimal watering I give them went outdoors. I guess you could say they volunteered to pioneer in the outdoor garden, in the interests of science! They are exposed to drenching rains about once every 5-7 days now, and powerfully hot sun. I made sure they are planted in very porous soil that drains rapidly. So far, they are doing exceptionally well out there. And they are getting about 10 times the water they'd get in their native home of Southern Africa. That supports my theory that "domesticated" Lithops can handle, and may even need, more water than their wild relatives. 

Another set of Lithops in my collection don't seem to want strong sunlight in great quantity. They like filtered bright light. Interestingly, this is the same sort of light they had at the nursery in Central Florida where they were raised, and where their entire line was grown over many years. Rather than grow leggy in filtered light, the new leaves are actually quite squat. They're saying "That's enough sun for me, thanks!"


So what do you think? Are we "domesticating" our Lithops to accept more water and less full sun?? And if so, do you think that's a good thing, or a bad thing?

10 comments:

  1. Hi Marla,
    An interesting question. I can't say if this domestication is either good or bad. Deliberate genetic engineering is another matter. As long as lithops are not being created with fish genes (or something else as bizarre) I think I'm OK with this gradual domestication and genetic modification. Perhaps, in the far distant future, mankind will really need these domesticated lithops or we may need the wild variety or we may not need or want any of them. For the time being I think the domesticated variety might be easier for me to grow and enjoy when I finally get around to growing my own lithops here in the PNW.
    Gail

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    1. I think that domestication is fine as long as the wild cousins continue to grow in their own way in their own land. I have a strong feeling that there are far more "domesticated" Lithops growing on our planet than wild ones at this point. But from the Lithops' point of view, spreading out over the planet is a good thing, most likely!

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  2. I have to add that they are really cute, especially growing in your wonderful pots!

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  3. They're looking lovely!

    I think that after many generations of selection changes are inevitable. And what else is one to do? As long as people are cultivating the plants and not removing them from the wild I think we're on the right track.

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  4. I agree completely, Paddarotti!

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  5. It's a very good point that if Lithops (and other plants) have evolved to grow domestically, that should help prevent people taking them from the wild. I wonder if I should be watering mine more and giving them a little shade?

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    1. I give mine more sun if they get leggy, and less if they stay quite squat or, heaven forbid, start to look bleached (that's sunburn for Lithops). If they are in growth and seem to be stalling out, they get more water, that usually spurs them to grow. When they're dormant, they get a little water every 10 days or so. And if they are very firm with no wrinkles, I hold off on a watering and wait for the next one. They are all individuals, I've learned that! Not the "low maintenance plants" we are promised, but I don't care.

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  6. I've read that different Lithops species need different conditions. In habitat, Lithops are spread across the land. It's an interesting point; which Lithops are tougher, the ones in habitat because they're surviving with what mother nature gives them or the ones in cultivation because they have to survive with too much care, lol. I think consistency in a Lithops environment is very important for its survival. Change from nursery/growers place to a new owners place can cause shock esp. for a particular plant like Lithops.

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  7. Lithopsland, you have a good point. Each species in the wild has evolved to survive in a very particular niche. Different rain/fog, different soil, different lighting. I get frustrated trying to figure out which species my "Living Stones" belong to, none have been labeled when I've bought them! And I've heard many of the domesticated Lithops are now hybrids of one sort or another, or their provenance has been lost completely. So we have to kind of wing it and hope we're doing the right thing with our own Lithops.

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