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Accepted Scientific Name: Lithops herrei
Notes Mesembryanthemum [H.M.L. Bolus] 2: 346-347. 1932 [24 Jun 1932]
Origin and Habitat: 65 km North-North-East of Oranjemund, Namibia.
Habitat: Their habitat is very sandy and they are often found growing among rocks and gravel where are very difficult to spot. The climate is relatively cool due to the cold Atlantic Ocean and frequent fog, and rainfall is mainly during the winter. Substrata mainly composed by quartzite and schist; amygdaloidal lava and calcrete. Colours grey-white, black, white, grey, brown. They closely resemble the surrounding pebbles of their natural habitat, either in coloration and shape, this camouflage allows them to escape detection and is a very effective strategy for escaping predation. They are pollinated by bees, flies, wasps, gnats, bugs and other insects that are common in the area.
Lithops herrei L. Bolus
Notes Mesembryanthemum [H.M.L. Bolus] 2: 346-347. 1932 [24 Jun 1932]
- Lithops herrei L. Bolus
- Lithops herrei C213 65 km NE of Alexander Bay, South Africa
- Lithops herrei C234 70 km NE of Alexander Bay, South Africa
- Lithops herrei C235 TL: 35 km NE of Alexander Bay, South Africa
- Lithops herrei C236 (syn. translucens) 15 km NE of Alexander Bay, South Africa
- Lithops herrei C237 (syn. translucens) 15 km E of Alexander Bay, South Africa
- Lithops herrei C355 65 km NNE of Oranjemund, Namibia
- Lithops herrei C361 30 km NE of Alexander Bay, South Africa
- Lithops herrei var. plena L. Bolus
- Lithops translucens L. Bolus
- Lithops traslucens var. plena L. Bolus
Description: Lithops herrei is a very pretty ivory white species with highly variable green grey pattern, face fully and uniformly fenestrated (var. traslucens) or embroidered (maculated) with small islands and fine dendritic windows often with a wide opaque border. Some populations, especially those growing inland and at somewhat high altitudes, display a maculate or somewhat opaque design, while the populations, growing near the Atlantic (within 30-40 km and at low altitudes), have often the same translucent windows of Lithops optica. In intermediate localities (including the type locality), both forms are represented, so it would be inappropriate to treat them as varieties. One of the localities in Namibia is the furthest inland, and the highest, and the plants occuring there have a beautiful chalky whiteness obscured by grey, light brown or pink shades, making them resembling at first glance to Lithops meyeri. Moreover Lithops herrei and Lithops optica hybridize easily giving rise to mixed populations. Its relation with the small sized Lithops geyeri having much larger flower, further complicates the problem.
Habit: Lithops herrei is a stemless small to medium sized species forming large clumps of 10-15 bodies.
Body (paired leaves): 30 x 20 mm wide, turbinate, top of lobe convex to slightly cordate- truncated; face smooth,window opaque with a large number of transparent lines or dots, thereby breaking the window tip into a large number of islands and thus giving the upper surface the appearance of a slight rugosity, the islands coloured slightly white and the transparent lines and dots a light-green to darkish-green; inner margin straight; outer margin none or irregular; sides grey-white.
Flowers: Single, dark yellow, occasionally bronze-yellow, inside white, quite small, daisy-like, less than 23 mm in diameter, emerging from the fissure and as large as the pair of fleshy leaves below.
Blooming season: Mid-autumn.
Fruit: Seed capsules mostly 5-loculed up to 9 X 7 mm wide, smooth. Profile boat-shaped, top more or less flat, faces elliptic. Cell-lid edges very distinct.
Seeds: Yellow-brown to light yellow-brown, tuberculate 1, flecked.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Lithops herrei group
- Lithops herrei L. Bolus: pretty ivory white species with highly variable green grey pattern, face fully and uniformly fenestrated or maculatedwith small islands and fine dendritic windows. Distribution: Cape province to southern Namibia.
- Lithops herrei C213 65 km NE of Alexander Bay, South Africa: greenish mottled top.
- Lithops herrei C234 70 km NE of Alexander Bay, South Africa: pale grey body, green lines.
- Lithops herrei C235 TL: 35 km NE of Alexander Bay, South Africa: pale grey green top, branching lines.
- Lithops herrei C236 (syn. translucens) 15 km NE of Alexander Bay, South Africa: clear green windows.
- Lithops herrei C237 (syn. translucens) 15 km E of Alexander Bay, South Africa: not well-endowed florally.
- Lithops herrei C355 65 km NNE of Oranjemund, Namibia: large Namib form, a beauty.
- Lithops herrei C361 30 km NE of Alexander Bay, South Africa: greenish open windows, opticaesque.
- Lithops herrei cv. Splendido: shows a lovely combination of ivory and lemon-green. Flowers white. Since the species is present mainly in two forms,“windowed” or “maculated”, it should be noted that 'Splendido' derives obviously from the latter.
- Lithops translucens L. Bolus: has clear green, translucent, faces (uniformly fenestrated). Distribution: The “translucens” form occurs near the coast within 30 - 40 km and at low altitudes (Alexander Bay).
Bibliography: Major refences and further lectures
1) Heidrun E. K. Hartmann “Aizoaceae F – Z” Springer 2002
2) Achim Hecktheuer “Mesembs, mehr als nur Lithops” Books on Demand GmbH Norderstedt. 2008
3) Desmond T. Cole & Naureen A. Cole, Uwe Beyer, Yves Delange “Les Lithops” SUCCULENTES Spécial 2008 AIAPS (now Terra seca). 2008
4) Desmond T. Cole & Naureen A. Cole “LITHOPS Flowering Stones” Cactus & Co. Libri. 2005
5) Yasuhiko Shimada “The Genus Lithops” Dobun Shoin. 2001
6) Rudolf Heine “Lithops - Lebende Steine” Neumann Verlag. 1986
7) Bernd Schlösser “Lithops – Lebende Steine” Praktische Anleitung für die Zimmerkultur. BussinessPoint MEDIA. 2000
8) Steven A. Hammer “Lithops – Treasures of the veld” British Cactus and Succulent Society. 1999
9) Desmond T. Cole “Lithops – Flowering Stones” Acorn Books 1988
10) Rudolf Heine “Lithops – lebende Steine” Neumann Verlag. 1986
11) David L. Sprechman “Lithops” Associated University Presses, Inc. 1970
12) Gert Cornelius Nel “Lithops” Hortors Limited, South Africa 1946
13) Edgar Lamb "The illustrated reference on cacti and other succulents" Blandford Press. 1978
14) Christopher Brickell, Royal Horticultural Society "RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants: K-Z., Volume 2" Kindersley, 2008
15) G. C . Nel “Lithops: Plantae succulantae, rarissimae, in terra obscuratae, e famailia Aizoaceae, ex Africa australi” Hortors Limited, Cape Town, South Africa 1946
16) Heidrun E. K. Hartmann "Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Aizoaceae F-Z" Springer, 2002
17) Steven A. Hammer "Lithops: Joyaux du veld" Editions Quae, 25/nov/2010
Lithops herrei C355 65 km NNE of Oranjemund, Namibia Photo by: Valentino Vallicelli
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Cultivation and Propagation: Lithops optica is relatively easy to grow but great care needs to be taken with soil, temperature, time and amount of watering. It is a winter growing species and heads for dormancy in summer.
Growth rate: It is slow growing but clustering in cultivation, if grown correctly, it will reward the grower with generous displays of flowers.
Soil: Since roots are quite shallow, use a sandy gravel mixture (e.g. 2 parts sand : 1 part clay loam : 1 part gravel) or a cactus mix with extra perlite or pumice. For best results, use a shallow pot, and only use the smallest diameter pot that will accommodate the plant. Clay pots help the plants to dry out between watering.
Waterings: Requires little water, otherwise its epidermis breaks (resulting in unsightly scars). Watering should be very sparing and regular only during the late autumn and early winter months, e.g. no more frequently than once in two weeks, but when watered, they should be drenched so that the water reaches the bottom of the container. Water minimally in summer, only when the plant starts shrivelling. It is also best to water in the mornings so that the excess water evaporates and the upper layers of soil dry out fairly quickly. No water should ever be allowed to stand around the roots.
Exposure: Keep cool and shaded in summer, needs full sun or light shade in the other seasons. 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.
Fertilization: Need a perfect fertilizer diet during the growing season. 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, fertilization is not really necessary.
Hardiness: Although the plant will survive mild frost if kept dry (hardy as low as -5° C) it should be protected from severe cold and prolonged frost conditions.
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. The plant turns immediately to mush when over watered, or watered out of season. Care must be given in watering, keeping them warm and wet while growing, and cooler and dry when dormant.
Reproduction: Seeds, cuttings or division. Sow them in spring or autumn. Germination usually occurs within about a week or two. Seed germinate at 15-21 °C. 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. The young plants can be transplanted after a year, and flowering can be achieved within 3-4 years. The seed will remain viable for many years provided it is stored in a cool dry place. It is also possible to divide a multiheaded plant, but lithops prefer to grow clustered together and many growers prefer to leave them undisturbed to see how large a cluster can get. To separate a cutting from a grown-up mother, lift the plant, carefully cut through the rootstock. 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.
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