Wild Lithops, by Harald and Anja Jainta
Harald and Anja Jainta's botanical guide to Wild Lithops covers all 91 known taxa, according to the Cole system, and groups them into 12 clusters based on relationships and biogeographic reasons.
Lithops Review: Introduction
Plants attract people in different ways. Spectacular trees, exotic orchids, hardy alpines, charming blooms and bulbs, or spiny succulents are desired for gardens, collections or more. Examples of these can easily be found throughout southern Africa but here it is another plant group which fascinates us: the virtually invisible Living Stones. Horticulturists often attempt to recreate the illusion, delighted when visitors struggle to detect their cultivated specimens amidst carefully placed pebbles and rocks. Lithops are plants. This is not an entirely trivial point as they've certainly developed an almost artificial appearance and often people, newly confronted with these creatures, can hardly believe they are even alive. Lithops closely resemble rocks, gems, moulded plastic, brains, bottoms, marbles, stones... every human observer will have their own impression, with 'plant' seldom the first word that springs to mind. But plants they are and although they're unusual in many ways (Huber, 1943), they share almost every trait, roots, leaves, stems, flowers, fruits and seeds, with nearly every other flowering plant on earth. Still we consider them unique. Whilst they can be relatively easy to buy in market gardens, few people realise how hard it is to find lithops in the wild, they often grow in isolated colonies, separated by dozens of kilometres, and one must travel far and wide to encounter them in their natural habitat. Moreover, lithops have evolved over thousands of years to look so much like their stony surroundings that one needs the instincts of a prospector to find the right rock formation or quartz patch, and then to spot the tiny peculiar succulents that share that space. For us, lithops really are the true treasures of the veld. When Brown (1922) introduced the genus only nine species were recognised (plus L. fhedrichiae which proved to be a Conophytum). Less than a decade later twenty-seven "good species" were listed (West, 1929a) although only twenty of these survive as valid taxa today. By the early 1970s de Boer and Boom (Boom, 1971a-g) counted ninety-seven different varieties. Cole currently separates ninety-one taxa. Originally translated as 'Stonefaces' (West, 1929a) or 'Stone-shaped plants' (Marloth, 1929), the name 'Lithops' "is formed from the Greek words lithos, a stone, and ops, the face, on account of their resemblance in colour and appearance to the stones and pebbles they grow among" (Brown, 1922). It wasn't long before Living Stones or Flowering Stones had become established as favoured expressions for lithops. In their native homeland the plants are known as beeskloutjies in Afrikaans, meaning little cow hooves, and so-called because of their resemblance to the divided shape of the even-toed ungulates. Another synonym often heard in Namibia is Hottentottenpopo, meaning bottom of a Hottentot. This term may seem intimate and apt but its usage nowadays is considered impolite and politically incorrect since 'Hottentot' was originally used by invading colonialists as the collective name for the indigenous tribes of southern Africa.
As West (1929a) explains, "what appears as the top of the plant is morphologically part of the underside of the two leaves, the true upper sides, closely appressed, forming the hidden interior of the slit". Thus it is the top of the leaf pair which forms the face of the lithops, its decoration often providing a remarkable masquerade effect, an "illusion to the resemblance of these plants to the stones among which they grow" (Brown, 1926). A single leaf pair is normally produced each year from every head, their rounded shape and below-ground habit minimising surface-to-volume ratio and reducing water loss. The innards of a lithops are well protected from external climatic hazards and whilst usually only a few millimetres of the tops of the plant's leaves protrude above the surface of the soil, below ground level the leaves, the body of the lithops, can extend downwards another thirty millimetres. [...]
This is an excerpt from Wild Lithops, by Harald and Anja Jainta.
Title: Wild Lithops
Author: Harald Jainta
Photography: Anja Jainta
Genre: Sukkulent Guide
Publisher: Klaus Hess Verlag
Göttingen, Germany 2017
ISBN 9789991657417 / ISBN 978-99916-57-41-7 (Namibia)
ISBN 9783933117939 / ISBN 978-3-933117-93-9 (Germany/Europe)
Hardcover, 21 x 30 cm, 488 pages, 1998 colour photos, 13 typographic distribution maps, English text
Jainta, Harald im Namibiana-Buchangebot
Wild Lithops features all 91 known species in their natural surroundings from a perspective of a field research in Namibia and South Africa.