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Accepted Scientific Name: Lithops salicola
Notes Mesembryanthemum [H.M.L. Bolus] 3: 33. 1936 [31 Jul 1936]
Origin and Habitat: 15 km WNW of Luckhoff, South Africa
Lithops salicola L. Bolus
Notes Mesembryanthemum [H.M.L. Bolus] 3: 33. 1936 [31 Jul 1936]
- Lithops salicola L. Bolus
- Lithops salicola C034 TL: 10 km NW of Luckhoff, South Africa
- Lithops salicola C037 40 km SE of Hopetown, South Africa
- Lithops salicola C049 TL: 15 km N of Hopetown, South Africa
- Lithops salicola C086 (maculate Form) 35 km SE of Hopetown, South Africa
- Lithops salicola C320 10 km WNW of Luckhoff, South Africa
- Lithops salicola C321 25 km WNW of Petrusville, South Africa
- Lithops salicola C322 20 km SW of Luckhoff, South Africa
- Lithops salicola C351 10 km W of Luckhoff, South Africa
- Lithops salicola C353 15 km WNW of Luckhoff, South Africa
- Lithops salicola C351 TL: 10 km W of Luckhoff, South Africa cv. Malachite D.T.Cole
- Lithops salicola cv. Anemone
- Lithops salicola cv. Bacchus
ENGLISH: Stone Plant, Living Stone
ITALIAN (Italiano): Pianta Sasso
Description: Lithops salicola is a tiny succulent with swollen paired leaves the size of pebbles and beautiful white flowers in autumn. This plant clumps up quickly and forms matted groups with usually 2 to 50 heads (Desmond Cole recorded a plant with more than 350 heads), and they can get to be up to 25 cm across (takes decades). This Lithops is one of the taller species, and its slate grey leaf heads stand above the soil surface.
Bodies (paired leaves): Truncate in profile with elliptic-reniform faces, flattened or (usually) slightly convex, 17-35 mm tall, 11-26 mm broad. Fissure shallow. Surface smooth, obscurely translucent broad jagged or finely netted with confluent areas to almost uniform. Sides grey. Windows translucent, large, normally completely open, olive, greyish green, dark green, reddish, brown or dark brown/violet. Island absent or small, slightly raised opaque greenish, whitish, yellowish, pinkish or lilac grey. Margins usually very distinct and regular, seldom dentate or sinuate. Channels seldom present, in various shades of grey, greenish or bluish grey or greyish green or lilac. Rubrication usually lacking or, if present, as dots and dashes in the marginal indentations.
Flowers: White 20-50 mm in diameter.
Blooming season: Autumn.
Remarks: The plants described under the name Lithops salicola var. reticulata are a hybrid population between Lithops salicola and Lithops hallii.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Lithops salicola group
- Lithops salicola L. Bolus: clumps up quickly and forms matted groups with up to 50 heads. It grows on salt pans, with little or no stone, where they are often partly submerged during the rainy season.
- Lithops salicola C034 TL: 10 km NW of Luckhoff, South Africa: jagged windows, blue-grey.
- Lithops salicola C037 40 km SE of Hopetown, South Africa: grey, broad jagged windows.
- Lithops salicola C049 TL: 15 km N of Hopetown, South Africa: large grey jagged window.
- Lithops salicola C086 (maculate Form) 35 km SE of Hopetown, South Africa: large windows, striking .
- Lithops salicola C320 10 km WNW of Luckhoff, South Africa: eraser-grey.
- Lithops salicola C321 25 km WNW of Petrusville, South Africa: greyish blue.
- Lithops salicola C322 20 km SW of Luckhoff, South Africa: clay colored.
- Lithops salicola C351 10 km W of Luckhoff, South Africa: tiny marginal rubrications.
- Lithops salicola C351 TL: 10 km W of Luckhoff, South Africa cv. Malachite D.T.Cole: lovely green form.
- Lithops salicola C353 15 km WNW of Luckhoff, South Africa: slate grey, finely netted dark lines.
- Lithops salicola var. reticulata de Boer: a hybrid population between Lithops salicola and Lithops hallii.
- Lithops salicola cv. Anemone
- Lithops salicola cv. Bacchus: face is deep red wine colored.
Notes: Lithops (a.k.a. Stone plants) reduce the surface area for water loss by means of burial, they grow entirely within the soil and only the leaf tips are at the level of the soil surface. This habit also reduce exposure to herbivores, since the leaves mimic the colour and even the texture of surrounding ground and stones. This camouflage allows them to escape detection and is a very effective strategy for escaping predation.
Bibliography: Major refences and further lectures
1) Heidrun E. K. Hartmann (2002) “Aizoaceae F – Z” Springer
2) Achim Hecktheuer (2008) “Mesembs, mehr als nur Lithops” Books on Demand GmbH Norderstedt. ISBN-13 978-3-8370-1724-3
3) Desmond T. Cole & Naureen A. Cole, Uwe Beyer, Yves Delange (2008) “Les Lithops” SUCCULENTES Spécial 2008 AIAPS (now Terra seca). ISSN 0258-5359
4) Desmond T. Cole & Naureen A. Cole (2005) “LITHOPS Flowering Stones” Cactus & Co. Libri. ISBN 88-900511-7-5 ISBN-13 978-88-900511-7-3
5) Yasuhiko Shimada (2001) “The Genus Lithops” Dobun Shoin. ISBN 4-8103-4066-X
6) Rudolf Heine (1986) “Lithops - Lebende Steine” Neumann Verlag. ISBN 3-7402-0000-6; ISBN-13 978-3-7402-0000-8
7) Bernd Schlösser (2000) “Lithops – Lebende Steine” Praktische Anleitung für die Zimmerkultur. BussinessPoint MEDIA. ISBN 3-934945-01-5; ISBN-13 978-3-934945-01-2
8) Steven A. Hammer (1999) “Lithops – Treasures of the veld” British Cactus and Succulent Society. ISBN 0-902-099-64-7; ISBN-13 978-0-902099-64-7
9) Desmond T. Cole (1988) “Lithops – Flowering Stones” Acorn Books CC. ISBN 0-620-09678-0; ISBN-13 978-0-620-09678-2
10) Rudolf Heine (1986) “Lithops – lebende Steine” Neumann Verlag. ISBN 3-7402-0000-6; ISBN-13 978-3-7402-0000-8
11) David L. Sprechman (1970) “Lithops” Associated University Presses, Inc. SBN 8386-6902-6
12) Gert Cornelius Nel (1946) “Lithops” Hortors Limited, South Africa
13) Edgar Lamb (1978) "The illustrated reference on cacti and other succulents" Blandford Press.
14) Mesa garden seed list. Belen. New mexico. USA
15) Linda R. Berg “Introductory Botany: Plants, People, and the Environment” Cengage Learning, 02/Mar/2007
16) Dieter J. Von Willert “Life strategies of succulents in deserts: with special reference to the Namib desert” CUP Archive, 1992
17) Paul Keddy “Plants and Vegetation: Origins, Processes, Consequences” Cambridge University Press, 07/Jun/2007
18) Werner Rauh “Die grossartige Welt der Sukkulenten” Hamburg and Berlin: Verlag Paul Parey, 1966
19) Terry Hewitt “Cacti and Succulents” Dk Pub, 01/Nov/1996
20) George Willard Brown “Desert Biology: Special Topics on the Physical and Biological Aspects of Arid Regions” Volume 2 Academic Press, 01/Jun/1974
Lithops salicola C353 15 km WNW of Luckhoff, South Africa Photo by: Cactus Art
Lithops salicola C353 15 km WNW of Luckhoff, South Africa Photo by: Valentino Vallicelli
Cultivation and Propagation: Lithops salicola is one of the easiest species that will stand cold winter conditions if dry. Some people consider it one of the most tolerant of overwatering. It is not infrequent that seedlings grow up spontaneously in the potting container at the base of the mother plant. In hot weather, it becomes semidormant. This plant clumps up quickly and it is often seen in large mounds at shows because it is relatively easy to manage like that where many other species would quickly kill themselves. In general the Lithops are some of the world's most fascinating plants sought by succulent plants collector. Paying attention to the particular growing requirement of Lithops is especially important. If you provide the Lithops with the right conditions, they will reward you with their unique shape, size, colour and a proliferation of blooms in autumn. However, Lithops are tricky plants that are very particular about their growing conditions and require the right maintenance in order to keep happy. But don't be afraid even the best growers have plants that mysteriously dry up, or leave during the night. While Lithops are picky about their care, if you are patient and remember the basics, your efforts will be rewarded. Being small plants, a representative collection can be grown on a patio table, a sunny windowsill or a shelf in the greenhouse.
Growing rate: Slow growing for a mesemb.
Soil: They grow best in an open mineral, sandy-gritty soil and requires good drainage as they are prone to root rot. They can grow outdoor in sunny, dry, rock crevices (protection against winter wet is required) They can also be cultivated in alpine house, in poor, drained soil.
Repotting: They may stay in the same pot for many years. Plants grown in larger containers have frequently relatively poor flowers. Flowers might improve when the plants are given their own, small individual pots.
Watering They Require little water otherwise the epidermis breaks (resulting in unsightly scars). The basic cultivation routine is: Stop watering after flowering. Start watering after the old leaves are completely dry (usually late March or Early April). Water freely during the growing season, soak the compost fully but allow it to dry out between waterings. In the winter season the plant doesn’t need watering, the plant in this time extracts water from the outer succulent leaves, allowing them to shrivel away, relocating water to the rest of the plant and to the new leaves that form during this period. If grown in a container, bottom watering by immersing the container is recommended. Water sparingly only when warm, no water when cold. Nearly all problems occur as a result of overwatering and poor ventilation, especially when weather conditions are dull and cool or very humid. They must have very dry atmosphere.
Fertilization: Feed them once during the growing season with a fertilizer specifically formulated for cactus and succulents (high potash fertilizer with a dilute low nitrogen), including all micro nutrients and trace elements diluted to ½ the strength recommended on the label. They thrive in poor soils and need a limited supplies of fertilizer to avoid the plants developing excess vegetation, which is easily attacked by fungal diseases. Some growers fertilize frequently, some hardly ever. However, for the highly succulent mesembs, (Lithops, Conophytums, etc.) fertilization is not really necessary.
Light: They prefer a very bright situation and in winter they need the maximum amount of light you are able to give them, but keep more cool and partially shaded in summer. The only exception to this is seedlings in their first year that enjoy a shades place. Such tiny plants can easily get scorched or broiled and their appearance spoiled (this may not matter in the wild, where the Lithops have probably shrunk into the ground and becomes covered with sands). Outdoor (Lithops prefer full sun, with some shade in the hottest summer months. High levels of light are needed in autumn to flower and for good plant development. The low intensity of sun light during the growing season of this species generally prevents the white flower flowers from opening.
Special Advice: Lithops are best planted in a sunny and airy part of the greenhouse, and not too close to the glass roof or sides of the house as the plants can overheat during hot spells.
Hardiness: They require a minimum temperature 5°C (But will take a light frost and are hardy down to -7° C for short periods if they are in dry soil). USDA zones 9A – 11.
Uses: Container, rock garden.
Pests & diseases: Lithops may be attractive to a variety of insects, but plants in good condition should be nearly pest-free, particularly if they are grown in a mineral potting-mix, with good exposure and ventilation. Nonetheless, there are several pests to watch for:
- Red spiders: Red spiders may be effectively rubbed up by misting the vulnerable plants every day.
- Mealy bugs: Occasianlly mealy bugs develop aerial into the new leaves and flowers with disfiguring results, but the worst types develop underground on the roots and are invisible except by their effects.
- Sciara Flies: Sciara flies are one of the major problems for seedlings. It is a good practice to mulch your seedlings with a layer of grit, which will strongly discourage the flies.
- Scales, thrips and aphids: This insects are rarely a problem.
It is wise to treat your whole collection with a systemic insecticide twice a year in spring and autumn.
- Rot: Rot is only a minor problem with mesembs if the plants are watered and “aired” correctly. If they are not, fungicides won't help all that much.
Remarks: After flowering in the autumn and extending through winter season the plant doesn’t need watering, but they will still be growing, the new bodies will be increasing in size extracting water from the outer succulent leaves, allowing them to shrivel away. In fact the plant in this time extracts water and nutrient stored in the outer succulent leaves, allowing them to dehydrate relocating the water to the rest of the plant and to the new leaves that form during this period until the old leaves are reduced to nothing more than "thin papery shells".
Propagation: Seed or (or rarely) cuttings. The small seeds can be sown in pots of fine, well-drained sand, any time during the spring and summer months when temperatures are warm. Cover the seeds with a very fine layer of grit and water from below with a fungicide to prevent damping off. For the first 3-4 days cover the pots with a sheet of glass/clear perspex to keep the humidity levels high. Remove the glass and replace it with light shadecloth and mist once or twice a day for the next two weeks after which most seeds should have germinated. From then on mistings can be reduced to every second and then every third day as the little plants grow. Take the cuttings from a grown-up mother plant. Each cutting must contain one or more heads along with a fraction of root and permit them to dry out a couple of days, lay the cuttings on the soil and insert the stem end partially into the soil. Try to keep the cutting somewhat upright so that the roots are able to grow downward. It is relatively difficult to root Lithops from cuttings and generally pointless as well, so quick are they from seed.
Comment: Improvement of Lithops characteristics: Some growers (but not all!!) think it is very intriguing to reinforce any characteristic of cultivated Lithops of by crossing two similar selected plants and then back-crossing with the mother plant. This way we can eventually get some interesting results. Of course, many of the nicest Lithops we grow in cultivation have already been selected over time. However many Lithops are already nice plants which can’t really be improved, on the other hand one could try to improve the colour or the markings etc. Now if we have two particular plants we may attempt to breed between them and can maybe get a whole improved population and then select some better offspring to continue the selection.
Seed production: Plants can be hand pollinated, using a small paint brush. Remember always to cross different clones as the plants are self-sterile. The seed will remain viable for many years provided it is stored in a cool dry place.
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