Finding Lithops pseudotruncatella archerae
During April 2017 the Lithops Research and Conservation Foundation obtained a special free research permit from the Department of Environment and Tourism to enter the Namib-Naukluft Park in Namibia to search for colonies of Lithops pseudotruncatella subsp. archerae, a plant that has not been seen in nature for at least 20 years. With only vague descriptions of where the colonies were located on the farm Tsams West, which is now incorporated in the Namib-Naukluft Park, a full day search for these plants was unsuccessful. The Department of Environment and Tourism was once more approached in March 2018 with a request for a special permit to search again for these elusive plants in the Namib-Naukluft Park. On 10 April 2018 the Minister of the Department of Environment and Tourism, Mr Shifeta granted the four members of the LRCF and associate member Dr Ronald Uijs, the first ever special two-day permit to enter the Park together with the local nature conservation officer, Ephrahim to search specifically for the plants.** The first day, 27th April was spent on the farms Tsams west and Die Valle (the type locality for this taxon) and although we could not locate the plants on either farm, the time spent there was useful in pinpointing possible locations of the colonies and these areas will be searched again in 2019. The following day, 28 April 2018 we entered the Park once more and walked 8 km up the mountain along the disused old 4 X 4 track to examine possible areas where colonies of the plants were last seen in the 1990’s. One colony consisting of 33 plants was located, all in good condition after recent good rain in the area. Every plant was photographed and measured, and it was noted that all the adult plants have flowered. One of the plants was a distinct green colour very much like the ‘Split pea’ cultivar often seen in cultivation. Several other areas with suitable habitat on top of the Naukluft Mountains were also searched for colonies without success. The report to the minister and the manager of the threatened plants in Namibia at the National Botanical Research Institute, Sonja Loots, was completed a week later. Although the LRCF can look back on a very successful search for Lithops pseudotruncatella archerae, a plant that wholly occurs within a national park in Namibia, we are determined to find the type locality in years to come and to monitor this known population whenever possible.
**Tourists visiting the Namib-Naukluft Park can obtain a permit to hike in the Park, but this permit does not allow them to walk up the mountain via the 4 X 4 track where the Lithops pseudotruncatella archerae colony was found.