Mesembs - Gibbaeum comptonii

Also known as Living Stones and Ice Plant, seedlings of the South African dwarf succulent Gibbaeum comptonii (Caryophyllales - Aizoaceae) grow in clumps characterized by pairs of leaves mostly globular. The sizes of the leaves of a same pair are sometimes different. The asymmetry of the leaf pairs is a distinguishing characteristic of the genus. Flowers are magenta.

Sometimes this species is considered synonym to Gibbaeum heathii.

Reference: [1] - [2

Photo credit: [Top: ©Martin Heigan | Locality: South Africa, 2010] - [Bottom: ©Stuart Robinson | Locality: unknown, 2011] 

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It’s a stone! It’s an animal! Nope, it’s a plant!

Lithops are a fun species in the ice plant family (Aizoaceae) native to southern Africa. True mimicry plants, they tend to be referred to as “living stones” or “flower stones.” Their size, shape and colors resemble pebbles and small stones in their natural environment. Blending in is a form of protection from grazing animals that will eat them during the drought season. Experts in the field even have difficulty locating the plants for study because of their unusual camouflage.

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Living Stone - Dinteranthus vanzylii 

Dinteranthus vanzylii (Caryophyllales - Aizoaceae) is an intriguing solitary or clumping plant with attractive bodies and flowers that is very similar to Lithops in shape and colors but with no apparent dormant period.

The body is formed by two succulent leaves almost fully united, up to 4 cm tall and is sunken in the ground for most of the leaf length. The leaf pair forming a cone or a funnel with the leaf tips broad, flat, but sometime with a thin horny keel near the fissure. It is chalky white to clear paste or greyish with irregular red or brownish markings and dots.

As Lithops this species is also native to the Cape province, South Africa.

Reference: [1]

Photo credit: ©Etwin Aslander | Locality: South Africa (2011)

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Safa at the age of 3 (2007), the “Little” Desert Flower photographed by model, actress, author and activist Waris Dirie; founder of the Desert Flower Foundation.

  • “During the auditions for my film Desert Flower in Djibouti, I discovered with my team, this little angel. A woman had brought her daughter to the audition and held Safa, the daughter of her neighbor on the arm. I have seen this girl and at that moment I saw myself as a small child in the Somali desert. I knew immediately that only this girl may play this role.

    Our team quickly found Safa’s parents who lived desperately poor in the slums of Djibouti. Djibouti is one of the poorest countries in the world and half of the people, especially the women, are illiterate. The next day, in an interview with the parents, I found out that Safa had not yet been cut, but the parents planned to pay the circumciser from Safa’s fee. I was speechless for a few moments.

    Then I suggested to the parents an agreement. “Safa remains safe and my Desert Flower Foundation will pay for Safa’s school and we will support your family until Safa’s 19th birthday. For this you have to sign a contract and you have to bring Safa regularly to a French hospital in Djibouti to ensure her integrity. The parents agreed. This was in December 2007.” - Waris Dirie (source)

For over 12 years, Waris Dirie has fought against female genital mutilation (FGM) worldwide. At least 150 million women and girls are affected by this cruel practice, which continues to be performed in Africa, but also in Asia, Europe, America and Australia.

The Desert Flower Foundation seeks to end this crime by raising public awareness, creating networks, organizing events and educational programmes. The foundation also supports victims of FGM.

Waris Dirie wrote an autobiography ‘Desert Flower: The Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad: 

  • Waris Dirie enduring female circumcision at the age of 5 and by the age of 12 was arranged to be married to a man in his 60’s. She ran away from her oppressive life in the African desert, illiterate and impoverished, with nothing to her name but a tattered shawl. She traveled alone across the dangerous Somali desert to Mogadishu—the first leg of a remarkable journey that would take her to London, where she worked as a house servant; and during that time was discovered by photographer Terence Donovan. Her life took a turn for the better traveling to nearly every corner of the globe as an internationally renowned fashion model; and ultimately to New York City, where she became a human rights ambassador for the U.N.(synopsis)

The book inspired the film (official trailer) with the same title, starring Ethiopian born model, maternal health advocate, clothing designer and actress Liya Kebe.