The other evening, I was watching the new Hercules movie and was surprised to hear mention of Lithops. Extract of Lithops, to be more precise, was used as a sedative and pain reliever for a battle weary Hercules. At first, I was excited to find reference to Lithops in popular culture, but then I started to wonder about the basis of Lithops being portrayed in this way and what impact such a reputation could have on already stressed wild populations.
A little research revealed that Lithops have long been coveted by traditional healers for their medicinal properties. Although never empirically proven to be medicinal, Lithops are regularly harvested for this reason. And even more disturbing, Lithops are harvested by the thousands, dried, and sold as magical love charms in local markets (often in the form of necklaces), presumably because of their suggestive shape. Many references I found indicated that whole colonies have been wiped out due to unsustainable collection practices. Ugh!
As I’m sure many are aware, many species of Lithops are on the IUCN red list of threatened species. This is due to habitat destruction and unsustainable harvesting. Despite the fact that Lithops are becoming more popular in culture, the wild populations are being threatened. It’s sad to think that our beloved living stones may cease to exist in the wild in the future and it is my sincere hope that conservation efforts are able to thwart senseless destruction of wild colonies.
Below is a list of current Lithops species on the IUCN red list. If you’d like to know more, you can search for “Lithops” at the following URL http://www.iucnredlist.org/search
- Lithops francisci
- Lithops fulviceps
- Lithops hermetica
- Lithops optica
- Lithops ruschiorum
- Lithops vallis-mariae
- Lithops werneri