Plants of this species form small compact cushions to 5 cm tall and 16 cm in diameter, with leaves 2.5-4.5 cm long.
The honey-scented flowers open in late afternoon and stay open for most of the night. They are magenta or white, up to 3.5 cm in diameter and appear mainly in July-August.
The plants grow in gravelly plains and rock crevices from southern Namibia to northern Namaqualand. Rainfall in this area is on average less than 100 mm per year and occurs mainly in winter.
Mesembs of the world (1998) supplies the following snippet of information: “Dracophilus plants are not very popular but are nevertheless often seen in collections”. In other words, many people do not really like them but still grow them. To me this seems to indicate that a lot of succulent growers are masochists, but maybe I’m just missing something here. I do however fully agree with another remark in the book : ”When well-grown, they can be very beautiful”.
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.
It is usually easy to identify a plant as a Malephora. Beyond that however, things are rather muddled up. So it is with some trepidation that I attach a species name to the pictures shown here.
M. mollis is described as a profusely branched shrub up to 50 cm tall, with leaves three-angled to round in cross-section and to 20 mm long and about 3 mm thick.
The distribution area is given as Laingsburg and both the flowering time and the habitat as unknown.
The photos were taken on stony flats northwest of Laingsburg, between early August and mid-October.
These plants are easily mistaken for a Lampranthus or a Ruschia. Their fruits however mostly have 10 compartments, whereas in Lampranthus the number is always 5 and in Ruschia usually 5, sometimes 6.
They form untidy mats or sprawling shrubs, sometimes with some erect branches to 70 cm tall.
The magenta flowers are 0.6-3 cm in diameter and appear mainly between autumn and early spring: April-September.
The plants occur widespread from Namaqualand to Humansdorp and Uniondale and are often locally abundant in flats and slopes with gravel, sand or loam. They are not browsed by stock or game, so when a great many of them are growing together, this indicates past disturbance and overgrazing of the veld. In the southern part of the distribution area, the plants will grow quickly on disturbed ground, e.g on road sides.
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.