Lithops (commonly called „flowering stones“ or „living stones“) 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.
In the wild, Lithops inhabit vast dry regions of southern Africa. Several areas in which these plants grow receive less than 2 inches of rainfall per month throughout the entire year. In an extreme situation of low rainfall, at least one species of Lithops depends on mist or fog to provide its main source of moisture *. Lithops could not survive in many areas that they are found were it not for their capacity to store water. In fact, almost the entire plant is devoted to this function. The “body” of the plant is divided into two succulent leaves fused together in the shape of an inverted cone. The fissure or slit at the top of the plant is the division of the two leaves. There is no stem as such, but rather the taproot joins abruptly at the base of the leaves. The structure of the plant reveals to the imagination the harsh environment in which Lithops live: the scarcity of water demands that young plants limited to only two leaves and a root system, as more extravagant growth would only serve to waste water. The leaves are thick to store enough water for the plants to survive for months without rain. The plants are small and keep a low profile to minimize the effect of the intense heat and light of their climate.