Wednesday, October 23, 2013

It's Time to Play...Spot the Lithops!

We all know that the genus Lithops is colloquially known as "Living Stones"- but it's fun to review once in a while why they have that name....
Nobody here but us stones....
This is a section of my outdoor succulent garden. Desert plants are rarities, and many creatures want to munch them to obtain nutrition and precious water. The cactus at top left uses spines very effectively to ward off famished critters.

Lithops use camouflage as their primary defense. Each species and subspecies lives in a uniquely colored and textured environment in southern Africa. I could not hope to duplicate the exquisite camouflage ability of Lithops in the wild, but I can manage to hint at it:
And here are some examples from my indoor Lithops garden:

And now for something completely different...a Mammillaria gracilis, trying not to be seen.
Spines and camouflage, awesome! 


  1. Very nice Marla. I tried putting lithops out in the ground several years in a row. They look so nice fitting into the landscape. Alas, rabbits, grasshoppers, and crickets nibbled away at the plants and I stopped trying. I thought about trying again next year, but planting them in a window box that I can move out of the way of the thirsty critters.

    Spines and camouflage are two ways plants protect themselves, but there is a third. Think Euphorbias.

    I really like putting the gymnocalycium and the M. gracilis in the ground. They look perfectly at home. Maybe I'll selected a couple cacti to go into my window box habitat planting next year. Great set of photos, I enjoyed them all.

    1. Ew, Euphorbias, I fear their toxic sap. Blisters and blindness! I must have been a hungry desert herbivore in a previous life....
      Glad you liked the photos! M. gracilis grows much more happily outside on my sand dune than in pots, I found. Ditto the gymocalycium.

  2. Hey Marla, what do the little pebbles surrounding the lithops do for them?

    1. They offer camouflage from critters that want to eat the Lithops. And in some cases, they might provide some mineral nutrition, I don't for sure. Also, pebbly soil makes for better drainage, which is crucial for a Lithops. They rot quickly in heavy, soggy soil. My Lithops mix has perlite, pumice, and pebbles in addition to cactus soil. Lithops growers generally have their own custom growing mixes!