Lithops 'Living Stones' Care
Lithops are native to deserts in southern Africa and are true masters of evolution.
The majority of a Lithops grows underground. It has two leaves with flat tops that grow flush with the surface soil. Lithops do not have a stem. Instead, the two leaves taper into a cone that ends in a single long tap root with fine root hairs.
This minimal above ground exposure protects Lithops from predators, extreme heat, and blazing sun. But minimal exposure of the plant also means there are not a lot of chloroplasts above ground. Chloroplasts, which contain chlorophyll, convert energy from the sun into sugars that plants need to survive via photosynthesis. The challenge for Lithops is that they must do enough photosynthesis to support the entirety of the plant above and below ground despite minimal exposure to the sun. To overcome this problem, a Lithops leaf is partially or completely translucent on the top.This epidermal window allows light to enter the leaf, which is full of a translucent water-storing tissue, to access chloroplasts deep inside the plant.
By housing chloroplasts in its subterranean leaves, Lithops are also able to conserve energy.
When a plant absorbs more energy from the sun than it can use to do photosynthesis, the plant converts that energy to heat. Heat damages critical nutrients and the conversion of excess energy to heat uses up water resources. For Lithops, conservation of water is essential. Lithops have also evolved to have smaller leaves in drier locations to minimize sun exposure.
With that background knowledge, let’s learn how to take care of your evolutionary marvel!