The Cactus Patch
Volume 1       March 1998      Number 3

Living Stones
by Richard Basta

Stone Plants are a wonderful variety of the Mesembryanthemum family of succulents found in the southern region of Africa. They are found only in western, southern and central South Africa. Stone Plants are formally called Lithops. The Greek word which it was derived from is (Litho) meaning stone or rock. I am curious as to where the ps comes in. To say Stone Plant is taxonomically correct since it is simply the English translation from the Greek. Stone Plants have received their name due to their curious rock mimicry variations and likenesses. These plants look like rocks and even feel like rocks due to the different margins and colors. In habitat these plants are somewhat hard to find due to them being blended in with the surrounding soils or being buried altogether.

There are approximately 145 varieties laid out by the noted Stone Plant enthusiast Desmond T. Cole. Desmond Cole has studied these plants for over 40 years and has enlightened the succulent community regarding these plants and has created a method for categorizing the different varieties, species, subspecies and cultivars within the Genus, Stone Plants. Altogether there are approximately 400 different Stone Plants which are in cultivation. This makes for a very large selection of plants with different temperaments as far as water, light and temperature. I presently have 100 or so out of the 145 different varieties and 300 or so different varieties, species, subspecies and several cultivars which I have grown from seed. I am seeking to have the entire collection of noted plants in cultivation.

I treat most of my plants the same, except for several soft bodied varieties which require watchful watering and soil that drains quicker. There are a variety of colors which are mostly earth tones. Some have large margins (facial features) and some have fine margins on their surfaces. Many have visible spots and some have spots as large as pimples. Some tops look like a brainy texture while some are actually smooth. The variations go on and on. This is why I grow this plant exclusively at this time.

I began growing these plants four years ago and have had many failures, but the successes and rewards outweigh the many failures which have taught me valuable lessons on growing these wonderfully diverse plants.

Stone Plants take up very little room and require very little care after they reach the adult stage of approximately 2 years at which time they will usually put forth their first flower, which will be yellow or white. I presently have my entire collection in an area of approximately 3 feet x 15 feet. Several thousand plants take up this area until I can build them a proper shade cloth house to keep them in. My plants will be ready for viewing and sale next spring.- I look forward to sharing my experiences and knowledge about this curious succulent in the future at one of our regular meetings via a program entitled Living Stones of South Africa.

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