Lithops Home

Lithops - Flowering Stones

3D Model of a Lithops

Burchell's Discovery

"On picking up from the stony ground what was supposed a curiously shaped pebble it proved to be a plant, and an additional new species to the numerous tribe of Mesembryanthemum, but in colour and appearance bore the closest resemblance to the stones between which it was growing. On the same ground was found a species of the Gryllus tribe amongst the stones, and so exactly like them in colour and even in shape that it could never have been discovered had it not been observed just at a moment when in motion. The intention of Nature in these instances seems to have been the same as when she gave to the chameleon the power of accommodating its colour, in a certain degree, to that of the object nearest it, in order to compensate for deficiencey of its locomotive powers. By their form and colour these insects may pass unobserved by those birds which would soon extirpate a species so little able to elude its pursuers, and this little Mesembryanthemum may thus generally escape the notice of cattle and wild animals."

William Burchell's description of a Lithops after he discovered one on the 14th of September, 1811, near Prieska, in the Northern Cape province of South Africa.

What is a Lithops?

A Lithops is a plant which consists of two opposite leaves which are fused together along the outer edges, so as to form an obconic, turbiniform (top-shaped) body. This body is divided into two more or less equal halves or lobes, which are fused together along their outer edge to a depth of 1-4 mm. A thin line of adhesion closes the fissure across the top.

The majority of the plant's body remains below the surface of the soil, with only the top of the plant being exposed. The reason for this is so they can hide from any predators, and also so they can keep themselves protected from the sun.

For a more detailed description of the anatomy of a Lithops, see the morphology section of this website.

How can I identify which species of Lithops I have?

Identifying Lithops is not easy, and except for the more obvious ones, identification can get quite tricky. Lithops are mainly identified by the facial features, shape of the plant seen from above and in profile, and the colours of the flowers, so get acquainted with the various terms used to describe them. See the morphology section of this website for general terms used, then go to the species section and try to work out which species is closest to yours.

Where do Lithops come from?

Lithops are found in Southern Africa, and have quite a large distribution area. For more information on the distribution of the various species, see the distribution section of this website.

How do I take care of my Lithops?

Lithops are very popular and are relatively easy to grow. For more information on taking care of Lithops, as well as how to grow them from seed, see the cultivation section of this website.

Where can I buy Lithops?

Lithops can be bought from various sources, or you can even grow them yourself from seed. For a list of places where you can buy Lithops seeds and plants, click here.

Are there any books written about Lithops?

There are quite a few books written about Lithops, some are unfortunately out of print, but are sometimes available as secondhand books. For a list of some of the books that have been published, click here.

Where can I meet other Lithops enthusiasts?

You can either join a succulent society, or you can join an online discussion group. For a list of succulent societies and online discussion groups, click here.

3D Model of a Lithops

Acknowledgements & Thanks:

Alberto Marvelli - President of Cactus&Co, Italy

For generously granting me the rights to use the information contained in the book:
Cole, D.T. & N.A. Lithops - Flowering Stones. Cactus&Co. Libri, Italy (2001).
To find out more about Cactus&Co visit their website:

Desmond & Naureen Cole - South Africa

For all the hard work they have put into Lithops research over the years, and for their superb book, mentioned above.

Steven Hammer - Vista, California

For inspiration and advice.

Rafael Matysiuk - Germany

For the use of his superb photos, featured on his own website:

Ivan Boldyrev - Siberia, Russia

For the use of his Interactive Cole Locality Maps, as well as his technical suggestions.

You can find out more about Ivan by visiting his website:

Ian - United Kingdom

For his help with editing, content checking and other useful suggestions.

Tim Jackson - Mojave desert

For his help with editing, content checking and other useful suggestions.

The Genus Lithops

For inspiring me since my first sighting of one, at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, on the 17th of Feb, 2004.

Seed Capsules

Lithops have hygrochastic seed capsules, which means they only open when exposed to moisture. The seeds stay safely protected inside the capsules and only when enough rain has fallen will the capsules open.

Featured Species