Go ahead, take a guess:


Photo by Yellow Cloud via Wikimedia Commons

Animal, vegetable, mineral … or alien?


Photo by Amada44 via Wikimedia Commons

Leaning toward alien, aren’t you?

Here’s a hint:


Photo by Amada44 via Wikimedia Commons

Note the pot in which they’re planted.

These little curiosities are, indeed, vegetable. Formally known as lithops (a genus that contains several species), they are succulent plants commonly called “living stones” or “pebble plants.” You can see why.


Photo by Anselm Bradford via Wikimedia Commons

“Lithops are true mimicry plants: their shape, size, and color causes them to resemble small stones in their natural surroundings. The plants blend in among the stones as a means of protection. Grazing animals, which would otherwise eat them during periods of drought to obtain moisture, usually overlook them. Even experts in the field sometimes have difficulty locating plants for study because of this unusual deceptive camouflage,” explains enthusiast Nick Rowlette. “In the wild, lithops inhabit vast dry regions of southern Africa. Several areas in which these plants grow receive less than two inches of rainfall per month throughout the entire year.”

And, here’s the really cool part: Lithops do this:


Photo by Michael Wolf via Wikimedia Commons

You want some now, don’t you?

Well, then, awaken your inner dormant gardener from her winter sleep and indulge your newfound lithop love! It’s easy:

Order live lithops from a U.S. Etsy shop like San Pedro Cactus or try your hand at starting seeds from Whatcom Seeds Company. The seeds germinate within 14 days and, once started, need no water from fall until spring.

Leave a comment 4 Comments

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    These plants are so interesting looking. At first I thought they were some sort of obscure fruit cut in half or maybe a mushroom. They would sure hate a Florida climate with all the heat and humidity we have down here.

  2. What a serendipitous find! When my step Dad was diagnosed with brain cancer back in ’97, he gave me an opal ring that I wore for years. One day, a particularly difficult day for his failing appetite, he told me about three dreams he remembered having. They all had to do with breaking something open to get to what was inside. One was simply an egg, he wanted to eat it but didn’t want to crack it open and the last he could remember was a car locked behind a dealership’s glass walls that he bought but he had to break through to get to it.
    That same night I opened my devotional book that I had on my shelf to a page about living stones, how they’re just ordinary stones until they’re broken and their fire comes from the cracks and fissures inside and allow the air to give them their luster. The metaphor was to depict our lives when we go through circumstances that we think intend to break us but instead allow God to show the fire and lustre of his love and strength for others to see inside of us. Little did I know that opal would remind me of such an important life lesson that I’ve held through not only losing my Dad but so many other things, I had no idea how strong I was until the breaking brought the beauty of that fire alive in me. Even now, a single mother of two I am reminded that it serves me well to stand strong in knowing that good can come from things meant to tear us down.
    I never knew this plant existed, and now I will most certainly find one. Thank you for what you do. I’m not just a fan anymore, I’ve sent in a request to become a Farmgirl.

    • MaryJane says:

      Good morning Shannon. What beautiful imagery, metaphor, life lessons. Fire opal is a connection my daughter has with her grandmother. And I wear my grandmother’s opal ring set in ornate but simple gold. Welcome.

  3. Nancy Coughlin says:

    Shannon Colleen what a beautiful way with words you have. You touched my heart with your words. And two of my children carry your two names! I have ordered seeds to try and grow these amazing lithops. Hope they are successful When they grow, will remember your words.

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