Habitat: South Africa
Cultivation: Being native to the Southern hemisphere, Conophytum have a growing season going from late summer to early autumn. Choose a bright location and be extremely careful with watering.
Curiosity: The name derives from the Greek kònos (cone) and phytòn (plant) because of the shape of some species.
Conophytums, these peculiar plants with their highly reduced leaves and exposed surfaces, and with flowers resembling miniature brushes, have fascinated people for almost two centuries.
The genus Conophytum includes several dwarf plant in the family of Aizoaceae. Like the more popular Lithops, Conophytums are able blend in their rocky habitat due to the greyish colour of their little, conic leaves, which make them look like little pebbles!
Conophytums occur throughout the areas with winter-rainfall and all-year rainfall in South Africa (in the Western, Northern and Eastern Cape) and southern parts of Namibia. Plants thrive where the rainfall varies between 50-200 mm per year. Due to the extremely dry environmental conditions in which Conophytum species occur, the plants go into dormancy during the hot, dry summer months. Many Conophytum species are associated with soils rich in gravel and/or in quartz, which occur from the Knersvlakte northwards to the Richtersveld and Warmbad region.
During the dormancy, leaves die and dry out, creating layers with the function to protect the following season’s buds. In the Autumn, these plants come out from dormancy, producing new leaves and blooming. The leaves then continue to grow during the rainy winter months, and the plants return into dormancy with the arrival of the dry hot summer.
Conophytums have very short, almost absent stems, along which the conic leaves, arranged in opposite pairs, grow. The leaves are swollen, succulent, similar to pebbles or small cones. They grow opposite each other and from the narrow slit in the middle the large, daisy-like flowers sprout. In some species, leaves loose their more common, conic shape to become more rounded or figg-shaped (such as in C. ficiforme and C. truncatum), resembling pebbles even more. In these species, in fact, the paires of leaves are fused together, forming the spherical structures.
Flowers look like pink daisies, with a lot of thin, long petals, often pink but sometimes yellow, bigger than the whole plant. Flowering occurs generally in Autumn and pollinators can be moths or wasps depending on the species. The blooming time during the day depends on the species: a range of flowering times exist in Conophytum species from morning, late afternoon, early evening to night.
Although the individual plants remain very small (never more than 10 cm tall), they develop colonies that expand horizontally forming a sort of soft bush that blooms in late Summer.
The genus Conophytum is believed to have sedative properties, possibly as a result of mesembrine-type alkaloids.
VARIETY AND TYPES
Here are a few species of Conophytum. Check out our online shop to find some of them!
- C. ampliatum
- C. aureum
- C. batesii
- C. bilobum
- C. bilobum subsp. bilobum
- C. bilobum subsp. altum
- C. bilobum subsp. gracistylum
- C. blandum
- C. calculus
- C. cordatum
- C. chauviniae
- C. divergens
- C. ectypum
- C. elishae
- C. ficiforme
- C. flavum
- C. rutescens
- C. koubergense
- C. fulleri
- C. meyerae
- C. meyerae
- C. minutum
- C. obcordellum
- C. obcordellum subsp. ceresianum
- C. obcordellum subsp. spectabile
- C. ornatum
- C. pearsonii
- C. pillansii
- C. saxetanum
- C. scitulum
- C. speciosum
- C. subglobosum
- C. truncatum
- C. velutinum
- C. wettsteinii
- C. wiggetae
TIPS FOR GROWING
Conophytums come from the southern hemisphere and have their growing season between late summer and early autumn. Here are our cultivation tips:
- They need a very bright location. Direct sun is fine, as long as the plant is sheltered with a slight shade in the central hours of summer days.
- They love hot weather but can bear temperatures down to 5°C.
- Be extremely careful with watering and make sure that the soil is completely dry before watering.
- It is a rather undemanding plant. You can also use a standard soil for cacti.
- Fertilize only at the beginning of summer, with a specific product for succulents.
- Choose wide and shallow pots to give the plant the opportunity to reproduce spontaneously and cover the surface.
Generally the suckers, producted in large quantities, are used as cuttings for the propagation of Conophytum.