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).
Old plants of this species form clumps with up to 20 egg-shaped (=oviform) bodies, which are 1-2 cm tall and 1-3 cm in diameter.
Especially when flowering, the very dense stands in which they grow present an unbelievable show. The white to rose-pink flowers appear in August-September.
The plants occur on quartzitic flats and slopes in the southern Knersvlakte, where the rainfall is on average about 125 mm per year (mainly in winter).
When a species has many synoniems (16 in this case), one cannot help but wonder what that means. There may be a couple of reasons for the plethora of names, but in this case the most likely one is the species being so highly variable. Understandably, this makes it often difficult to positively identify it. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the species often grows together with C. bilobum and hybridizes with it, resulting in swarms of plants with intermediate characters.
The plants form small or large cushions (up to 30 cm in diameter), which may be straggly or neatly domed.
The bodies are up to 2.5 cm long and 1.5 cm in diameter, heart-shaped to nearly spherical, usually slightly bilobed and sometimes slightly keeled. The keel lines are often red, the fissure zone has small, windowed patches on either side and the skin is pale green to yellowish green or greyish green, smooth or velvety-papillate and often spotted.
As a rule the flowers are yellow (rarely pure white), with petals often drooping. They appear in March -June.
The plants occur mostly in the western Richtersveld on granite, gneiss, sandstone or quartz slopes -often in shade.
All 3 pictures taken 6 Oct. 2011.