This year, I was fortunate enough to make two trips to Namaqualand. One of the delights of these trips was seeing C. minusculum ssp. minusculum in flower (pictures made 13th May), and in full growth (pictures dated 27th July). All pictures were made on the Gifberg.
The plants are quite variable and form low mats or domes of slightly keeled bodies with a shining green or purplish top, usually with conspicuous lines. The flowers appear mainly in March-June and are huge in comparison to the small bodies, magenta or rose, rarely white.
Found from the Cederberg north and west growing on Table Mountain sandstone, usually with moss and often in damp depressions.
The plants prefer acid soil in cultivation.
With Crassula tomentosa var. interrupta
Plants of this species are sparingly to densely branched (usually from the base) and form clusters up to 9 cm in diameter.
The columnar plant bodies are usually erect (rarely more or less flat on the ground); 20-90 mm long and 6-15 mm thick.
Flowering occurs from May to October; the flask-shaped flowers have cream, 9-11 mm long petals.
The species is found in the western part of Namaqualand from near Port Nolloth to the Vanrhynsdorp area, on exposed quartz gravel flats and gentle slopes, rarely on rocky outcrops and in shallow pans on rocks.
The Latin word calculus means pebble and in this case probably refers to both the roundness and the firmness of the plant bodies.
These bodies are to 30 mm diameter, ball- to barrel-shaped, very firm, whitish-green to pale yellowish-green, without any markings; they form a hemisphere with age.
The flowers are open at night (sometimes staying open during cool mornings) and are said to smell strongly like cloves or carnations; they are golden yellow to deep reddish orange and appear in April-June.
The plants occur in full sun on salty quartz flats and gentle slopes in the Knersvlakte.
First picture taken 10th Sept. 2010; others 12th May 2017
No less than 25 synoniems have been recorded for this species, so it will come as no surprise that it is quite variable.
As a rule, the plants consist of only one pair of leaves, rarely 2 or 3. These leaf-pairs are 20-50 mm long and 15-30 mm wide, sunken into the ground. Old leaves stay on the plants for 1 or 2 years.
The flowers appear in April – June; they are 20-50 mm in diameter and may be white, pink, red , magenta, or yellow (see part 2). Even within one population one can come across all these colours.
The plants are locally abundant on flats or slopes rich in quartz pebbles in the Vanrhynsdorp area.
The first 3 pictures were taken on 30 March 2012, # 4 early next morning. Last one: 3 Sept. 2010
Lithops karasmontana occurs only in Namibia and is a very variable species with 3 subspecies, one of them with 4 varieties.
Var. karasmontana is found to the west and southwest of the Great Karasberg and on its own supplies most of the variability in the species, ranging from opaque and uniformly coloured plants to ones with narrow channels and markings and others with more or less translucent open windows. All this combined with a great variation in colours, from bluish-white to yellowish brown and brick red.
The flowers are white and usually 2.5-3.5 cm in diameter.
The plants figuring here, were photographed on a rose quartz outcrop near Grunau.
These peculiar and very distinctive plants form little clumps of soft and velvety-hairy* leaf-bodies which are about 4 cm tall and 3 cm in diameter.
During the long resting period, the bodies are completely enclosed in the dry sheath-like remains of the previous pairs of leaves.
Because the leaves are completely united, the flowers have to rupture the tops of the bodies in order to emerge. They are about 2 cm in diameter, white to mauve and appear from November to Januari.
The plants are locally abundant on quartz outcrops, but are known from only one location (west of Barrydale in the western Little Karoo), in a highly saline area. They grow together with G. album -see first picture- and sometimes hybridise.
In his book Flowering stones and Midday flowers, Gustav Schwantes dedicates nearly 3 pages to this species and he is clearly highly impressed by it, as witnessed by the following remarks:
“The plant exhibits the highest expression of leaf succulence in the whole plant kingdom.
There is nothing of greater interest among the Mesembryanthemaceae than this living creature which is so unusual in shape and structure”.
*the hairs are among the longest in the family.
Four of the six species belonging to the section Columnares of Crassula are more or less well known (barklyi, congesta, pyramidalis and -of course- columnaris).
One other (C. multiceps) I have never even seen and the subject of this post is not widely known either.
It is a small, more or less erect plant, 8-25 cm tall when in flower, sometimes with several short branches at the base. The green to brown leaves are normally all about the same length (usually 5-8 mm but sometimes to 1.5 cm). They often covered with sand particles.
In September-November, the main stem bears many small rounded inflorescences on the upper part of the flower stalk.
The plants occur from Vanrhynsdorp to Calvinia, Worcester and Montagu on sandy or gravelly slopes (often facing south).