Lithops THE BASICS

A section chiefly for anyone new to Lithops.

Lithops are succulent (juicy) plants that come from the drier areas of southern Africa, mostly to the south west. The visible part of the plant consists of two swollen leaves partially divided by a split (fissure). The top surface of the leaves is flattened to varying degrees and is often ornately marked. A single flower is produced annually from the fissure, and successful pollination results in a seed capsule that is opened by the rain.

In cultivation Lithops require a well drained gritty compost and sunlight. The plants only require water during the late spring or summer (their growing season) and only when they show it is needed by way of wrinkling. If in doubt do not water; these are desert plants and do not like wet feet. Once flowering occurs, usually in the autumn, no further water should be given until the plants have completely re-newed themselves, a process that takes around 6 months. The old leaves transfer their water to new leaves which gradually appear within the fissure. Eventually the old growth is reduced to a withered shell which provides a little protection to the new growth. Only when that process is completed can watering be contemplated. In winter cultivated Lithops should be kept completely dry and frost free.

Lithops like lots of sunshine but can easily scorch behind glass. It is therefore preferable to give them maximum ventilation, although some form of shading may also be necessary during the hottest parts of the year. There is a balance to be struck between shade and water, because too much shade can result in tall plants especially if overwatered. In nature Lithops generally grow low to the ground and a good cultivated specimen will maintain that trait.

These are fascinating plants that are easy to grow once their needs are understood. They have become increasingly popular in cultivation, and many new forms created or stabilised by selective breeding. These are the cultivars (cultivated varieties) which delight many greenhouse growers, but are probably best avoided until the basics are mastered.

The genus Lithops N.E.Br. was set up in 1922 by Dr. Nicholas Edward Brown, hence the “N.E.Br.” suffix. Within the genus the most significant rank is that of species, and the following is a brief overview of that subdivision within the genus Lithops N.E.Br.. Where a species is further sub-divided into subspecies (subsp.) and or variety (var.), examples are also given. Most of my knowledge, and therefore the basis of the brief notes that follow, is the research undertaken over many years by Professor Desmond Cole and his wife Naureen Cole. The reader is urged to consult their land-mark monograph on the genus, Lithops Flowering Stones (published by Cactus & Co. in 2005, ISBN 88-900511-7-5), but where that is not possible it is hoped these short notes will be of some help and encourage further observation and research into these remarkable plants.

As this section is primarily aimed at people new to Lithops the terminology used has been simplified, and author citations omitted. The cultivars that derive from each species (and the named hybrids) are depicted together via a link. For a complete check-list of Lithops at all ranks please consult the Classification section of Lithops Scrapbook III within this web-site. Where size is mentioned it is approximate and in relation to other Lithops, all of which are small plants ranging from less than half an inch to a couple of inches or so in head (two fused leaves) diameter.

According to Cole classification the genus Lithops N.E.Br. is divided at the rank of species as follows.

Lithops amicorum

Size: Small heads mostly in a small clump.
Top of leaf shape (facial profile): Flat to slightly convex and smooth.
Colours: Pale grey with blue tinge.
Markings: Generally a grey mottling, sometimes flecked with brown.
Flower: White and large.
(Further noted in Lithops Scrapbook 1 via the link on the right.)

Cultivars of Lithops amicorum

Lithops aucampiae

Size: Medium to large heads mostly in a small clump.
Facial profile: Flat to slightly convex and smooth.
Colours: Mostly various shades of brown.
Markings: Range from fine dark lines (channels) to wide dark areas (windows).
Flower: Yellow and large.
Subdivisions:
Subsp. (subspecies) aucampiae var. (variety) aucampiae encompasses the variability documented above;

subsp. aucampiae var. koelemanii is generally a redder colour void of windows (photo left © Tok Schoeman) (photo right © Eric Collins);
subsp. euniceae has well-defined marginal (edge of leaf) protrusions (photo left © Tok Schoeman) (photo right © Eric Collins);
subsp. euniceae var. fluminalis has marginal protrusions that are finer and generally grey in colour.

Cultivars of Lithops aucampiae

Lithops bromfieldii

Size: Medium heads mostly in a small clump.
Facial profile: Flat to slightly convex and sometimes lumpy (rugose).
Colours: Mostly various shades of brown or grey, often with bold red flecks or lines (rubrications).
Markings: Generally a smudged or dotted pattern.
Flower: Yellow and variable in size.
Subdivisions:
Var. bromfieldii encompasses the variability documented above;

var. glaudinae has many metallic-looking dots (dusky dots) (photo left © Tok Schoeman) (photo right © Eric Collins);
var. insularis has a generally duller brown colour;
var. mennellii has a rugose surface and grey colour.

Cultivars of Lithops bromfieldii

Lithops coleorum

Size: Small heads mostly in a small clump.
Facial profile: Rounded and smooth.
Colours: Mostly various shades of brown, grey and beige.
Markings: Generally a dotted branched pattern.
Flower: Yellow, small to medium in size.
(Further noted in Lithops Scrapbook 1 via the link on the right.)

Cultivars of Lithops coleorum

Lithops comptonii

Size: Small to medium heads mostly in a small clump.
Facial profile: Flat to slightly convex and generally smooth.
Colours: Various shades of grey and beige tinged with purple.
Markings: Generally open windows with tiny lighter grey areas (islands).
Flower: Yellow with white centre, small to medium in size .
Subdivisions: Var. comptonii encompasses the variability documented above;

var. weberi has generally better defined margins and slightly larger islands (photo right © Eric Collins).

Cultivars of Lithops comptonii

Lithops dinteri

Size: Small to medium heads mostly in a small clump.
Facial profile: Flat to slightly convex and generally smooth.
Colours: Mostly various shades of grey with bold red flecks.
Markings: Red flecks and generally open windows sometimes with grey islands.
Flower: Yellow with white centre, small to medium in size.
Subdivisions:
Subsp. dinteri var. dinteri encompasses the variability documented above (photo left © Eric Collins);

subsp. dinteri var. brevis is generally smaller and duller (photo left © Tok Schoeman);
subsp. frederici is smaller still, has more occulded windows and is more rounded in profile (like tiny plover eggs);
subsp. multipunctata is larger than subsp. dinteri with an obscure window and more extensive rubrications (photo left © Tok Schoeman).

Cultivars of Lithops dinteri

Lithops divergens

Size: Small heads mostly in a small clump.
Facial profile: Slightly convex to convex, with a deep separation (divergence) between the leaves (fissure) and smooth.
Colours: Mostly various shades of grey or green, sometimes with a blueish or pinkish tint.
Markings: Open windows often with a “frosted glass” appearance.
Flower: Yellow with white centre, small to medium in size.
Subdivisions: Var. divergens encompasses the variability documented above;

var. amethystina is generally larger with less window frosting and clearer margins. There may be an amethyst tint or suffusion.

Cultivars of Lithops divergens

Lithops dorotheae

Size: Small to medium heads mostly in a small clump.
Facial profile: Convex and smooth.
Colours: Buff with darker windows containing rubrications.
Markings: Narrow to open well defined windows with bold rubrications.
Flower: Yellow, medium to large in size (photo left © Eric Collins).

Cultivars of Lithops dorotheae

Lithops francisci

Size: Small to medium heads mostly in a small clump.
Facial profile: Flat to convex, smooth or slightly rugose.
Colours: Mostly various shades of grey.
Markings: Numerous dusky dots sometimes coalescing into windows.
Flower: Yellow and small in size.

Cultivars of Lithops francisci

Lithops fulviceps

Size: Medium to large heads mostly in a small clump.
Facial profile: Flat to slightly convex and somewhat rugose.
Colours: Mostly various shades of grey, brown or beige.
Markings: Multiple dusky dots.
Flower: Yellow and medium in size often with long stalk (pedicle).
Subdivisions: Var. fulviceps encompasses the variability documented above (photos X2 © Ronnie Uijs);

var. lactinea generally has a creamy hue;
var. laevigata is generally smaller and smoother.
(Further noted in Lithops Scrapbook 1 via the link on the right.)

Cultivars of Lithops fulviceps

Lithops gesinae

Size: Small to medium heads either singular or in a small clump.
Facial profile: Convex and smooth.
Colours: Mostly various shades brown and beige.
Markings: Well defined windows or channels often with multiple islands and dots.
Flower: Yellow and medium to large in size.
Subdivisions: Var. gesinae encompasses the variability documented above (photo left © Eric Collins);

var. annae is larger and mostly single headed (photos X2 © Tok Schoeman).

Cultivars of Lithops gesinae

Lithops geyeri

Size: Small to medium heads mostly in a small clump.
Facial profile: Slightly convex, smooth and often slim at the fissure.
Colours: Mostly various shades of grey.
Markings: Narrow channels to open sometimes mottled windows.
Flower: “Clear yellow” with a small, “indistinct or absent” white centre and a small to large size (photo left © Eric Collins).

Cultivars of Lithops geyeri

Lithops gracilidelineata

Size: Medium to large heads, mostly but not always singular.
Facial profile: Flat to slightly convex and somewhat rugose.
Colours: Mostly various shades of grey or brown.
Markings: Narrow channels sometimes forming a network.
Flower: Yellow and medium to large in size.
Subdivisions:
Subsp. gracilidelineata var. gracilidelineata encompasses the variability documented above (photo bottom right © Tok Schoeman);

subsp. gracilidelineata var. waldroniae is generally more rugose with smaller flowers (photo right © Eric Collins);
subsp. brandbergensis is browner in colour with rubrications (photo left © Ronnie Uijs) (photo right © Boris Rommer).

Cultivars of Lithops gracilidelineata

Lithops hallii

Size: Medium to large heads mostly in a small clump.
Facial profile: Flat to slightly convex and sometimes rugose.
Colours: Mostly various shades of beige or brown.
Markings: Well defined windows with numerous small islands.
Flower: White and medium to large in size.
Subdivisions:
Var. hallii encompasses the variability documented above;

var. ochracea is generally more ochre in colour.

Cultivars of Lithops hallii

Lithops helmutii

Size: Small to medium heads mostly in a small clump.
Facial profile: Convex or humped with slightly divergent leaves and smooth.
Colours: Mostly various shades of pale green and grey.
Markings: Generally a mottled window.
Flower: Yellow with white centre and medium in size.

Cultivars of Lithops helmutii

Lithops hermetica

Size: Small to medium heads mostly in a small clump.
Facial profile: Convex, smooth to slightly rugose.
Colours: Mostly various shades of grey and white.
Markings: Broad channels to mottled windows.
Flower: Yellow and small in size.
(Further noted in Lithops Scrapbook 1 via the link on the right.)

Cultivars of Lithops hermetica

Lithops herrei

Size: Small to medium heads mostly in a small clump.
Facial profile: Convex and smooth to slightly rugose.
Colours: Various shades of grey.
Markings: Narrow channels to open windows.
Flower: Yellow (sometimes “bronze-yellow”) with a ”proportionally large” white centre and an overall small size.

Cultivars of Lithops herrei

Lithops hookeri

Size: Medium to large heads mostly in a small clump.
Facial profile: Flat to slightly convex and rugose.
Colours: Various shades of brown.
Markings: Network of narrow to wide channels.
Flower: Yellow and medium to large in size.
Subdivisions:
Var. hookeri encompasses the variability documented above (photos X2 © Eric Collins);

var. dabneri is generally grey or brownish with facial "shadows";
var. elephina is generally more buff in colour (photo left © Tok Schoeman) (photo right © Ronnie Uijs);
var. lutea generally has a coarse network of narrow grooves;
var. marginata has a tendency for wider channels than var. hookeri;
var. subfenestrata has a "polished appearance" and shallow channels that sometimes merge to create windows (photo left © Tok Schoeman) (photo right © Ronnie Uijs);
var. susannae generally is smaller and greyer with less channels than var. hookeri (photo left © Tok Schoeman).

Cultivars of Lithops hookeri

Lithops julii

Size: Small to medium heads mostly in a small clump.
Facial profile: Mostly flat or slightly convex and slightly rugose.
Colours: Various shades of grey and brown.
Markings: Variable. Sometimes a network of narrow to wide channels, sometimes open or obscure windows. In subsp. julii only there is often a brown smudge (lip smear) along the margins of the fissure.
Flower: White and medium to large in size.
Subdivisions:
Subsp. julii encompasses the variability documented above (top photos X2 & bottom left photo © Eric Collins);

subsp. fulleri var. fulleri has more distinct margins;
subsp. fulleri var. brunnea is generally browner and more convex;
subsp. fulleri var. rouxii generally has very well defined margins with stitch-like markings (photos X2 © Tok Schoeman).

Cultivars of Lithops julii

Lithops karasmontana

Size: Medium to large heads mostly in a small clump.
Facial profile: Mostly flat or slightly convex with humped islands and therefore slightly rugose.
Colours: Various shades of grey and brown.
Markings: Variable. Sometimes a network of narrow to wide channels and sometimes obscure windows.
Flower: White and medium to large in size.
Subdivisions:
Subsp. karasmontana var. karasmontana encompasses the variability documented above;

subsp. karasmontana var. aiaisensis generally has muted facial colours and is smoother than var. karasmontana (photos X2 © Eric Collins);
subsp. karasmontana var. immaculata is generally small with very shallow channels (photo right © Eric Collins);
(further noted in Lithops Scrapbook 2 via the link on the right;)
subsp. karasmontana var. lericheana is generally grey with broad channels (photo left © Tok Schoeman);
subsp. karasmontana var. tischeri generally has brick-red colours;
subsp. bella has distinct windows usually with islands;
subsp. eberlanzii is variable but usually has narrow or "chicken scratch" channels.

Cultivars of Lithops karasmontana

Lithops lesliei

Size: Medium to large heads mostly in a small clump.
Facial profile: Mostly flat or slightly convex and mostly smooth.
Colours: Various shades of grey, green and brown.
Markings: Many small islands within a well defined window.
Flower: yellow and medium to large in size.
Subdivisions:
Subsp. lesliei var. lesliei encompasses the variability documented above;

subsp. lesliei var. hornii is generally browner than var. lesliei, with a more occluded or opaque face;
subsp. lesliei var. mariae generally has a very fine network of dots and islands (photo left © Tok Schoeman) (photo right © Eric Collins);
subsp. lesliei var. minor is small with chunky markings;
subsp. lesliei var. rubrobrunnea is generally redder than var. lesliei (photo right © Eric Collins);
subsp. lesliei var. venteri is generally greyer than var. lesliei, maybe tinted brown or green and has very dark windows (photo left © Tok Schoeman);
subsp. burchellii is grey with very dark and fine mesh like markings that occasionally form windows.

Cultivars of Lithops lesliei

Lithops marmorata

Size: Medium to large heads mostly in a small clump.
Facial profile: Flat to slightly convex and mostly smooth.
Colours: Various shades of grey.
Markings: A “marbled” appearance with medium to broad channels or open windows with islands.
Flower: White and medium to large in size.
Subdivisions:
Var. marmorata encompasses the variability documented above;

var. elisae generally has narrow channels (photo left © Terry Smale).

Cultivars of Lithops marmorata

Lithops meyeri

Size: Medium heads often in a small clump.
Facial profile: Slightly convex or humped with slightly divergent leaves and smooth.
Colours: Various shades of grey.
Markings: Diffuse window sometimes also with diffuse islands.
Flower: Yellow with white centre and medium in size.

Cultivars of Lithops meyeri

Lithops naureeniae

Size: Small to medium heads often in a small clump.
Facial profile: Slightly convex, slightly divergent and smooth.
Colours: Various shades of grey, green or reddish brown.
Markings: Ranges from narrow to broad channels or open windows.
Flower: Yellow with white centre and medium in size.

Cultivars of Lithops naureeniae

Lithops olivacea

Size: Small to medium heads often in a small clump.
Facial profile: Flat to slightly convex and smooth.
Colours: Various shades of green, grey and white.
Markings: Open windows sometimes flecked with tiny light islands.
Flower: Yellow with white centre and medium to large in size.
Subdivisions:
Var. olivacea encompasses the variability documented above;

var. nebrownii is generally browner and slightly divergent in form.

Cultivars of Lithops olivacea

Lithops optica

Size: Small to medium heads often in a small clump.
Facial profile: Convex and smooth.
Colours: Various shades of grey.
Markings: Ranges from obscure to open windows.
Flower: White and small in size.

Cultivars of Lithops optica

Lithops otzeniana

Size: Small to medium heads often in a small clump.
Facial profile: Convex and smooth.
Colours: Various shades of brown, green or grey.
Markings: Distinct “scalloped” margins with narrow to broad channels or open windows.
Flower: Yellow with white centre and small to medium in size.

Cultivars of Lithops otzeniana

Lithops pseudotruncatella

Size: Small to large heads either singular or in a small clump.
Facial profile: Flat to slightly convex and mostly smooth.
Colours: Various shades of grey and brown.
Markings: Narrow to broad channels with numerous dusky dots.
Flower: Yellow and medium to large in size.
Subdivisions:
Subsp. pseudotruncatella var. pseudotruncatella encompasses the variability documented above;

subsp. pseudotruncatella var. elisabethiae generally has a "blueish-pink colour" (photo left © Ronnie Uijs) (photo right © Hock Yong E);
subsp. pseudotruncatella var. riehmerae is smaller and greyer than var. pseudotruncatella (photos X2 @ Boris Rommer);
subsp. archerae is grey and visually dough like (photo left © Ronnie Uijs) (photo right © Eric Collins);
subsp. dendritica is usually single headed, pink tinged and large with “honeycomb-like” channels on the top surface (face). Dusky dots are obscure;
subsp. groendrayensis is usually single headed, grey-white and large with an almost blank face. Dusky dots are obscure;
subsp. schoemanii is extremely large with a "quilt-like" face. Dusky dots are obscure (photo right © Tok Schoeman);
(further noted in Lithops Scrapbook 2 via the link on the right;)
subsp. volkii has few dusky dots and is blue-white in colour.

Cultivars of Lithops pseudotruncatella

Lithops ruschiorum

Size: Small to large heads often in a small clump.
Facial profile: Markedly convex and mostly smooth.
Colours: Various shades of grey and brown.
Markings: Narrow channels or a blank face.
Flower: Yellow and small to medium in size often with a long pedicle.
Subdivisions:
Var. ruschiorum encompasses the variability documented above;

var. lineata is generally a tan colour with fine channels and small flowers (photo left © Tok Schoeman).

Cultivars of Lithops ruschiorum

Lithops salicola

Size: Small to large heads often in a small clump.
Facial profile: Flat to slightly convex and smooth.
Colours: Various shades of grey.
Markings: Open windows often with small islands.
Flower: White and small to large in size.

Cultivars of Lithops salicola

Lithops schwantesii

Size: Small to large heads often in a small clump.
Facial profile: Flat to slightly convex and mostly rugose.
Colours: Various shades of brown and grey often with strong rubrications.
Markings: Narrow to broad channels or mottled windows, strong rubrications and light colour margins.
Flower: Yellow and medium to large in size often with a long pedicle.
Subdivisions:
Subsp. schwantesii var. schwantesii encompasses the variability documented above (bottom photos X2 © Eric Collins);

subsp. schwantesii var. marthae generally is smoother with more open windows and less rubrications than var. schwantesii (photo right © Eric Collins);
subsp. schwantesii var. rugosa is generally bluer in colour (photos X2 © Tok Schoeman);
subsp. schwantesii var. urikosensis generally has absent windows with a yellowish or grey hue (photo right © Tok Schoeman);
subsp. gebseri is browner in colour and has finer grooves than subsp. schwantesii (photo left © Tok Schoeman) (photo right © Eric Collins).

Cultivars of Lithops schwantesii

Lithops steineckeana

Size: Small to medium heads often in a small clump.
Facial profile: Distinctly rounded to slightly convex and smooth.
Colours: Various shades of grey and brown.
Markings: Generally an obscure face marked with various light or dark flecks.
Flower: Yellow and small to medium in size (photo right © Bernd Schlösser).
NB. Some consider this a named hybrid.

Cultivars of Lithops steineckeana

Lithops terricolor

Size: Small to medium heads often in a small clump.
Facial profile: Flat to slightly convex and smooth.
Colours: Various shades of grey and brown.
Markings: Many dusky dots or mini-windows.
Flower: Yellow and small to medium in size.

Cultivars of Lithops terricolor

Lithops vallis-mariae

Size: Medium to large heads often in a small clump.
Facial profile: Flat to slightly convex and slightly rugose.
Colours: Various shades of grey and white.
Markings: Many tiny surface wrinkles, often blank or with flecks of brown.
Flower: Yellow and small to medium in size, often with a long pedicle.

Cultivars of Lithops vallis-mariae

Lithops verruculosa

Size: Medium to large heads often in a small clump.
Facial profile: Flat to slightly convex and rugose.
Colours: Various shades of brown and grey.
Markings: Narrow to broad channels with many small red and raised dots (verruculae).
Flower: Variable. The range is from near white to yellow to pink, and small to medium in size.
Subdivisions:
Var. verruculosa encompasses the variability documented above (photos X2 © Ronnie Uijs);

var. glabra is generally grey in colour with less verruculae.

Cultivars of Lithops verruculosa

Lithops villetii

Size: Small to medium heads often in a small clump.
Facial profile: Flat to slightly convex and smooth to slightly rugose.
Colours: Various shades of grey, brown and green.
Markings: Open windows often with small islands and a distinct margin.
Flower: White and small to medium in size.
Subdivisions:
Subsp. villetii encompasses the variability documented above (photos X2 © Eric Collins);

subsp. deboeri has irregular margins and more islands than subsp. villetii (photo left © Tok Schoeman) (photo right © Eric Collins);
subsp. kennedyi has a mostly flat profile and a reddish-brown face (photo right © Eric Collins).

Cultivars of Lithops villetii

Lithops viridis

Size: Small to medium heads often in a small clump.
Facial profile: Convex and smooth.
Colours: Various shades of green.
Markings: Open unmarked windows.
Flower: Yellow with white centre and small to medium in size.

Cultivars of Lithops viridis

Lithops werneri

Size: Small heads often in a small clump.
Facial profile: Convex and rugose.
Colours: Various shades of grey.
Markings: Narrow to broad channels or open windows.
Flower: Yellow and small in size.

Cultivars of Lithops werneri

Named Lithops hybrids