Lithops lesliei (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br. subsp. lesliei

Scientific Name
Lithops lesliei (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br. subsp. lesliei
Higher Classification
Lithops lesliei (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br. forma minor (de Boer) B.Fearn, Lithops lesliei (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br. subsp. lesliei var. hornii de Boer, Lithops lesliei (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br. subsp. lesliei var. mariae D.T.Cole, Lithops lesliei (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br. subsp. lesliei var. minor (de Boer) D.T.Cole, Lithops lesliei (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br. subsp. lesliei var. rubrobrunnea de Boer, Lithops lesliei (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br. subsp. lesliei var. venteri (Nel) de Boer & Boom, Lithops lesliei (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br. var. applanata de Boer, Lithops lesliei (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br. var. lesliei, Lithops lesliei (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br. var. lesliei cv. "albiflora" D.T.Cole, Lithops lesliei (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br. var. lesliei cv. "albinica" D.T.Cole, Lithops lesliei (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br. var. luteoviridis de Boer, Lithops lesliei (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br. var. maraisii de Boer, Lithops lesliei (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br. var. minor de Boer, Lithops orpenii L.Bolus, Lithops venteri Nel, Mesembryanthemum ferrugineum Schwantes, Mesembryanthemum lesliei N.E.Br.
National Status
Status and Criteria
Near Threatened A4acd
Assessment Date
V.L. Williams, D. Raimondo, N.R. Crouch, A.B. Cunningham, C.R. Scott-Shaw, M. Lötter, A.M. Ngwenya & L. Mills
We estimate a 15% population reduction due to persistent and destructive harvesting for the medicinal plant trade and as a result of urban expansion and agriculture in the past 10 years (generation length five years) and a further decline of at least 10% is expected in the next five years if current rates of harvesting is to continue. This subspecies has a wide distribution, but local extirpations are being observed within urban areas.
Not endemic to South Africa
Provincial distribution
Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North West
Douglas in the Northern Cape Province to central Limpopo Province and south-eastern Botswana.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
Grassland, Savanna
Primarily in arid grasslands, usually in rocky places, growing under the protection of forbs and grasses.
The exploitation threats to Lithops lesliei are recent. In the early 1990s, the species was very rarely seen (if at all) in the Johannesburg muthi shops and markets (V.L. Williams, pers. obs., 2008). It has since become very common within the markets and many thousands are estimated to be harvested annually (V.L. Williams, pers. obs.). The harvesting of the species is thought to have been speculative initially, following which the demand increased dramatically. Smith & Crouch (1999) recorded seeing the species for sale in Durban's Warwick market in February 1999; there were approximately 120 individual plants. During an earlier visit to Warwick, there had been one trader selling L. lesliei and the stock was reportedly harvested from Gauteng. Smith & Crouch (1999) say that it appears as if L. lesliei has been recently adopted by the Zulu healing culture because it was being sold outside of its distribution range and was not reported for sale in the early KwaZulu-Natal surveys by Cunningham (1988). Neil Crouch reported that it is a common species in the Durban markets is sold by the sack full 20% of the time one goes to the Warwick market (pers. comm., 2008). At the Medicinal Plant Red List Workshop (14-15/01/2008, SANBI, Durban), the participants discussed observations of L. lesliei threats, decline and prevalence in the markets. The following points were raised: a) the plants have a very specific habitat and clumped distribution, hence many individuals can be exploited at one time; b) most, if not all, plants in the Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve subpopulation south of Johannesburg have been removed (L. Mills, pers. comm.); c) a 'small' patch of two to three thousand individuals was observed at one locality in Gauteng. However, on the other side of the road the land had been bulldozed and ploughed and, assuming that the subpopulation had originally been continuous across the road, it was assumed that the many thousands of individuals had been removed during the habitat destruction; d) succulent collectors are also a threat, but muthi harvesting has become the biggest threat to its persistence. Based on the evidence presented at the workshop, the participants estimated that there had been at least a 15% decline in the past and that destructive harvesting and habitat decline will continue in the future, hence the species qualifies as NT.
Population trend
Not easily cultivated.
Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Lithops lesliei (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br. subsp. lesliei NT A4acdRaimondo et al. (2009)
Lithops lesliei (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br. subsp. lesliei var. rubrobrunnea de BoerData Deficient Pfab and Victor (2002)
Lithops lesliei (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br. subsp. lesliei var. mariae D.T.ColeInsufficiently Known Hilton-Taylor (1996)
Lithops lesliei (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br. subsp. lesliei var. hornii de BoerInsufficiently Known Hilton-Taylor (1996)

Cunningham, A.B. 1988. An investigation of the herbal medicine trade in Natal/KwaZulu. Investigational Report No. 29. Institute of Natural Resources, Pietermaritzburg.

Hilton-Taylor, C. 1996. Red data list of southern African plants. Strelitzia 4. South African National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

Pfab, M.F. and Victor, J.E. 2002. Threatened plants of Gauteng, South Africa. South African Journal of Botany 68:370-375.

Raimondo, D., von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. and Manyama, P.A. 2009. Red List of South African Plants. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Smith, G.F. and Crouch, N.R. 1999. Mesembs in the muthi market: Lithops lesliei as an ethnomedicinal plant. British Cactus and Succulent Journal 17(3):133-137.

Williams, V.L., Raimondo, D., Crouch, N.R., Cunningham, A.B., Scott-Shaw, C.R., Lötter, M., Ngwenya, A.M. & Mills, L. 2008. Lithops lesliei (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br. subsp. lesliei. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2015.1. Accessed on 2015/11/29

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Distribution map

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