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Conophytum calculus – Marble Buttons


Scientific Name

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

Common Names

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


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

Scientific Classification

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


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 (non-transparent and non-glossy) 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 autumn and has spicy, clove-scented, golden yellow to dark orange flowers which are nocturnal. They only open at night.

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.

The Conophytum vegetate during the winter season. They must then be kept dry during hot, gradually wet upon autumn 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 autumn 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 needings 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… – See more at: How to Grow and Care for Conophytum.


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


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