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Conophytum calculus (Marble Buttons)

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Scientific Name

Conophytum calculus (A. Berger) N. E. Br.

Common Names

Marble Buttons, Cone Plants, Dumplings, Button Plants, Living Pebbles

Synonyms

Mesembryanthemum calculus (basionym), Conophytum calculus var. calculus, Conophytum komkansicum

Scientific Classification

Family: Aizoaceae
Subfamily: Ruschioideae
Tribe: Ruschieae
Genus: Conophytum

Description

Conophytum calculus is a small, but very tough, low-growing, stemless succulent with individual rounded "leaves", fused together into one body, that multiply with age and cluster together to form a dome-shaped cushion. The spherically-shaped leaf bodies are completely smooth and hairless, characteristically opaque and have a chalky-green to pale yellowish-green color. The leaf bodies are always without any spot or detail and up to 1.2 inches (3 cm) in diameter. New leaves are formed inside the existing ones and when, after a year, the leaf body starts to die, a new one emerges from inside. The old leaf becomes a thin, dry, and smooth, beige colored sheath, sometimes turning black, which persists on the plant. It flowers in fall and has spicy, clove-scented, golden yellow to dark orange, nocturnal flowers.

Hardiness

USDA hardiness zones 10b to 11b: from 35 °F (+1.7 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Conophytums are usually grown in dish gardens where they spread slowly but make good ornamental plants for window gardening. They also do well in rockeries where they can be grown in crevices.

These plants vegetate during the winter season. They must then be kept dry during hot, gradually wet upon fall arrival. The moisture stimulate the release of new root hairs and the plant will grow for the entire winter season, foliar issuing new pairs from inside the existing ones. Flowering usually occurs in fall and the color of the flowers is extremely variable from species to species. The cultivation is quite easy, but care must be taken to avoid excess water and to prevent rot. The plants themselves communicate their water needs with a slight wrinkling of the epidermis. They do not particularly fear the cold weather and can resist also at temperatures of 23 °F (-5 °C) as long as the soil is completely dry and the temperature returns rapidly to rise.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Conophytum.

Origin

Conophytum calculus is endemic to the winter rainfall regions of the Cape provinces of South Africa and the southern part of Namibia.

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