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  Dintheranthus microspermus

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Dintherantus microspermus

Description: Dinteranthus microspermus is a small stemless succulent that grows above ground and not markedly buried after the manner of D. vanzylii. It is usually solitary or few branched, but subspecies 'puberulus' forms small compact groups with 3-7 branches up 2 to 3 cm high, each with a single leaf-pair in the resting state.
Plant body (Leaf-pairs):
The plant has only pairs of boat-shaped, leaves about 2,5 cm long and broad with an inconspicuous keel, they are connate (united) to their length for 1/3 to 2/3 with a wide gap. Leaves are trigonus with convex sides as seen from above and semi-oval to semi-orbicular in side view. The leaves are chalky white suffused with violet or reddish, they are covered with green dots and without 'windows'. The epidermis of subs. 'microspermus' is galbrous while in subs. 'puberulus' the surface is green dotted and velvety due to hair-like papillae. The outer epidermal walls with a layer of crystal sand (not visible to the naked eyes) has a characteristically glittering shine.
Solitary, yellow or whitish often tipped with reddish, filaments basally white erect, staminodes absent,
Fruit: The fruit is a 6-10 locular capsule with broadly winged valves.




Family: Mesebrianthemaceae (Aizoaceae)

Scientific name:  
Dinteranthus microspermus (Dinter & Derenb.) Schwant.

Origin Namibia, Namaqualand, Northern cape, South Africa. (the ssp. 'puberulus' is geografically separated and occurs south east of the area of D. microspermus in the Kenhardt district)

Habitat:  Grows in quartz slopes, in summer raining areas. They both in colour and shape, resemble the stones and pebbles found in their natural habitat. The form and colour of the Dinteranthus have developed in order to allow them to live in the harsh conditions of their natural environment where they are able to stand extended periods of drought.

Common English Names include: Stone plant, Green stone plant, Living stone.


  • Mesembryanthemum microspermum Dinter & Derenb
  • Dinteranthus puberulus N.E.Brown
    In: G.C. 1928:472
  • Dinteranthus punctatus L.Bolus
    In: NM 1929:67

Etymology: The genus has been named after K. Dinter 1868-1945, German Government botanist working in Namibia 1897-1935.
The species name “microspermus” derives from Greek 'mikros', small; and Greek 'sperma', seed.



Cultivation: Dinteranthus are summer growing species with dry rest period over winter but they do not shows an apparent dormant season like Lithops. Easy to grow they need a very open mineral, fast draining mix with little compost and a high degree of grit, coarse sand, small lava gravel or pebbles. Give them the maximum amount of light you are able to give them, but care should be taken about exposing them to the full blast of the sun rays in summer (The only exception to this is seedlings in their first year that enjoy a shades place) . Such tiny plants can easily get scorched or broiled and their appearance spoiled (this may not matter in the wild, where the Dinteranthus have probably shrunk into the ground and becomes covered with sands).
The basic cultivation routine is: Gives some water all year, more in Spring and again in autumn. Keep rather dry during coldest winter month and start watering regularly after the old leaves completely dry. (Usually late March or Early April) Water freely during the growing season, soak the compost fully but allow it to dry out between waterings. Some growers fertilize frequently, some hardly ever. Nearly all problems occur as a result of overwatering and poor ventilation especially when weather conditions are dull and cool or very humid. If too much water is supplied the plants will grow out of character, bloat, split and rot. Keep them in small pots as solitary clumps or as colonies in large, shallow terracotta seed pans.
When in doubt DON'T WATER. Where the resting season is in the winter and central heating gives very dry air in the home, give a light top spray once a week to simulate the desert dew and prevent excessive dehydration. Overwinter them preferably not below 5° C (but they endure some freeze if very dry).

After flowering in the summer and extending through
winter season the plant doesn’t need watering, but they will still be growing, the new bodies will be increasing in size extracting water from the outer succulent leaves, allowing them to shrivel away.  In fact the plant in this time extracts water and nutrient stored in the outer succulent leaves, allowing them to dehydrate relocating the water  to the rest of the plant and to the new leaves that form during this period until the old leaves are reduced to nothing more than "thin papery shells".

Propagation: From seed (very small) or by dividing older clumps. Slow growing for a mesemb.

Remarks: The strange appearance of Dinteranthus have made them very popular in succulent collections. They are similar in habit to Lithops but grows above ground (only D. vanzily is partly subterranean like Lithops with the top of each leaf tip exposed above soil). They are also called mimicry plants as they show a striking similarity to their background rocks and are difficult to detect when not in flower. The Dinteranthus have a pebbly look and are commonly known as pebble plants or living stones; each species is associated with one particular type of rock formation and occurs nowhere else. This camouflage also reduces the need for chemical defences against herbivores.

Photo of conspecific taxa, varieties, forms and cultivars of Dinteranthus microspermus.

Photo gallery: Alphabetical listing of Cactus and Succulent pictures published in this site.

Home | E-mail | Plant files | Mail Sale Catalogue | Links | Information | Search

All the information and photos in cactus art files are now available also in the new the Encyclopaedia of Succulents. We hope you find this new site informative and useful.