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The effect of the drought on Lithops colonies

Large areas of southern Namibia have been experiencing drought conditions for at least the past seven years. Many Lithops colonies have been monitored throughout this period and the effect of the drought on the colonies are marked. Many of especially the larger and older multi-headed plants in some of the well-known colonies such as the Lithops karasmontana bella colony near Aus, have died off. These big plants cannot retract below the soil surface and can thus not hide from the elements during these unfavourable conditions. At some large colonies such as Lithops hermetica which is several hundred plants strong in 2014, an intensive search in April 2019 for plants found only 32 plants of which only 3 was alive. As these drought cycles come around every 5-12 years this is probably a normal process of renewing the populations and the LR&CF will monitor the population structure of these affected colonies for many years to come to determine the role that the drought might play in the structuring of populations.

The habitat of Lithops karasmontana bella near Aus during the drought 2019.

Lithops karasmontana bella with most of the heads that have died off after 7 years of drought.

A Lithops karasmontana bella plant with most heads still alive growing in a more sheltered position in the colony in April 2019.

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