Lithops: The Living Stone

Plants have many measures to save them from being eaten. For instance, the Dendrocnide moroides is a plant that is native to Australia. This plant employs the use of silica-tipped stinging hairs on its leaves – and it is infamous for having one of the most painful stings on the planet. Other plants such as castor beans contain potent toxins that can kill or maim. These deter herbivores from consuming on the plants.

But some plants employ a completely different tactic. The lithops is a plant that is native to South Africa and it has a very novel approach to avoid herbivory. The plant looks like a stone, which essentially helps it to blend in with the rest of the dry and arid landscape. Therefore, the plant’s name “Lithops” is derived from the Ancient Greek words “lithos” and “ops”, which means “stone” and “face” respectively.

The plant has a pair of thick, bulbous leaves which are fused almost to each other. It hardly has a stem. The leaves are partially buried below the soil. To enable photosynthesis, the top layer of the leaf is translucent to let light into the lower parts. Consequently, this top part of the leaf is called the leaf-window. Lithos are angiosperms, meaning that they produce flowers.

The flowers are either yellow or white and are quite small. Also, the flowers are reported to have a sweet scent. These plants usually flower in the autumn season but are also seen to flower before the summer and winter solstice. Moreover, have remarkable patterns of the top of the leaves, helping the plants to blend in with the surrounding rocks. They are popularly grown as house plants due to their novel characteristic features and also because they are easy to cultivate.

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