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 most significant rank in taxonomy is that of species, and the following is a brief overview of that rank 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 II within this web-site. Where size is mentioned it is in relation to other Lithops, all of which are small plants ranging from less than half an inch to a few inches 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.

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 (photos X4 © Eric Collins);

subsp. aucampiae var. koelemanii is generally a redder colour void of windows (photo © Tok Schoeman);
subsp. euniceae has well-defined marginal (edge of leaf) protrusions (photo © Tok Schoeman);
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 © Tok Schoeman);
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.

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: Mostly pale purple with various shades of grey and beige.
Markings: Generally open windows with tiny lighter grey areas (islands).
Flower: Yellow with white centre, small to medium in size (photos X2 © Eric Collins).
Subdivisions: Var. comptonii encompasses the variability documented above;

var. weberi has generally better defined margins and slightly larger islands.

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 (photos X2 © Eric Collins);

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

Cultivars of Lithops dinteri

Lithops divergens

Size: Small heads mostly in a small clump.
Facial profile: Convex, with a deep separation (divergence) between the leaves (fissure) and smooth.
Colours: Mostly various shades of grey, green or blue.
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.

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) (photos X2 © Eric Collins) .
Subdivisions: Var. fulviceps encompasses the variability documented above;

var. lactinea generally has a creamy hue;
var. laevigata is generally smaller and smoother.

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 (photos X2 © Eric Collins).
Subdivisions: Var. gesinae encompasses the variability documented above;

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

Cultivars of Lithops gesinae

Lithops geyeri

Size: Small to medium heads mostly in a small clump.
Facial profile: Slightly convex and smooth.
Colours: Mostly various shades of grey.
Markings: Narrow channels to open sometimes mottled windows.
Flower: Yellow with white centre, small to large in size and having narrow petals somewhat spaced apart (photo left © Eric Collins).

Cultivars of Lithops geyeri

Lithops gracilidelineata

Size: Medium to large heads mostly in a small clump.
Facial profile: Flat to slightly convex and sometimes 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;

subsp. gracilidelineata var. waldroniae is generally more rugose with smaller flowers;
subsp. brandbergensis is browner in colour with rubrications.

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 (photos X2 © Eric Collins).
Subdivisions:
Var. hallii encompasses the variability documented above (photos X2 © Eric Collins);

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 (photos X2 © Eric Collins).

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 (photo left © Eric Collins).

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 with white centres and small in size (photos X2 © Eric Collins).

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 generally is more grey in colour with smudged channels;
var. elephina is generally more buff in colour (photo © Tok Schoeman);
var. lutea generally has a coarse network of narrow grooves;
var. marginata has a tendency for wider channels than var. hookeri (photo © Tok Schoeman);
var. subfenestrata has shallow channels sometimes merging to create windows (photo © Tok Schoeman);
var. susannae generally has a more grey colour than var. hookeri (photo © 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. 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 © 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 (photo © 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 is generally grey or white and smoother than var. karasmontana (photo © Hock E);
subsp. karasmontana var. immaculata is generally small with very shallow channels;
subsp. karasmontana var. lericheana is generally grey with broad channels (photo © Tok Schoeman);
subsp. karasmontana var. tischeri generally has a brick-red colour;
subsp. bella has distinct windows usually with islands;
subsp. eberlanzii is variable but has a strong network of 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 and has more occluded windows than var. lesliei (photo © Tok Schoeman);
subsp. lesliei var. mariae generally has a very fine network of dots and islands (photo © Tok Schoeman);
subsp. lesliei var. minor is small with chunky markings;
subsp. lesliei var. rubrobrunnea is generally redder than var. lesliei;
subsp. lesliei var. venteri is generally greyer than var. lesliei and has almost black windows (photo © Tok Schoeman);
subsp. burchellii is various shades of grey in colour with fine mesh like markings (photo © Jonathan Clark).

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 (photos X2 © Eric Collins).
Subdivisions:
Var. marmorata encompasses the variability documented above;

var. elisae generally has narrow channels (photo © 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 (photos X2 © Eric Collins).

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 (photos X2 © Eric Collins).

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 with white centre 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 © Hock E);
subsp. pseudotruncatella var. riehmerae is smaller and greyer than var. pseudotruncatella;
subsp. archerae is grey and visually dough like; (photo © Tok Schoeman);
subsp. dendritica is usually single headed and large with “honeycomb-like” channels on the top surface (face);
subsp. groendrayensis is usually single headed and large with an almost blank face;
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 long pedicle.
Subdivisions:
Var. ruschiorum encompasses the variability documented above;

var. lineata generally a tan colour with fine channels and small flowers (photo © 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 medium to large in size often with long pedicle.
Subdivisions:
Subsp. schwantesii var. schwantesii encompasses the variability documented above (bottom photos X2 © Eric Collins);

subsp. schwantesii var. marthae generally has more open windows and less rubrications than var. schwantesii;
subsp. schwantesii var. rugosa is generally bluer in colour (photo © Tok Schoeman);
subsp. schwantesii var. urikosensis is generally yellowish or grey in hue;
subsp. gebseri is browner in colour and has finer grooves than subsp. schwantesii (photo © Tok Schoeman).

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 (photos X2 © Eric Collins).

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 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 (photos X2 © Eric Collins).
Subdivisions:
Var. verruculosa encompasses the variability documented above (photos X2 © Eric Collins);

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 and green.
Markings: Open windows often with small islands and a distinct margin.
Flower: White and small to medium in size (photos X2 © Eric Collins).
Subdivisions:
Subsp. villetii encompasses the variability documented above (photo right © Eric Collins);

subsp. deboeri has irregular margins and more islands than subsp. villetii (photo © Tok Schoeman);
subsp. kennedyi has matt windows often with a fine lining of light brown around the margins.

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 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