The Cactus Patch
Volume 1       December 1998      Number 12

Lithops In Their Native Setting
by Bruce Hargreaves

I must congratulate Richard for the success he has had in growing Lithops. I always manage to kill them. Despite this, 1 found them interesting and went out of my way to find them in the wild. My first attempt was in 1966 when Polly and I had our first long break in our Peace Corps Teaching. We transisted much of southern Africa and at one point reached the South African Town of Upington. We had written ahead and, much to our surprise, were met at the train station by a chauffeured limosine from the town council. We were asked what we wanted to see and I said, " Lithops". When asked what they are, I pointed to a poster behind the desk and said, " Those plants right on top there." Despite a visit to the local library, they were unable to find anyone who knew where to see them. Despite this, we had an enjoyable trip to Aughrabie Falls (saw a National Park) and saw numerous aloes, euphorbias and milk weeds.

Twenty years later, when I was teaching at the National University of Lesotho, we used the long break in teaching to visit Namibia. At Windhoek, the capitol, we met with Mr. Giess, author of the vegetation map of Namibia and toured his fantastic succulent collection. We arranged to meet again in a week and he asked what he could take us to see. He was surprised when I answered,"Lithops" (he had assumed I would request some euphorbia such as E. giessii - which we managed to find on our own). Upon our return we were treated to a visit to a local farm where we had to accept the slow hospitality of coffee and a visit to the family graveyard (decorated with beautiful crystals). When we had just about dispaired of ever seeing Lithops, Mr. Giess told us to look down. Even then we failed to see them until they were pointed out amongst the perfectly matching quartz pebbles!

I could go on and tell about later visits to Lithops in Botswana (including a trip with Prof. Desmond Cole, the leading authority on them), but that would be a long anti-climax.

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