TUCSON (ARIZONA HIGHWAYS TV)  -- Most of what you see growing around me here, wouldn't be alive without irrigation - yes, it's true - we have plenty of sand and rocks, yet you're going to want to take a closer look at some of those rocks when you visit a very special nursery in Tucson.

That's because some of their rocks are alive! "The reason that people are attracted to them is because they're so unusual, they look like little rocks sitting on the surface of the soil, and people can't quite figure out what they are. I'm surprised how many times people say 'is this a plant?'"

We're inside Plants for the Southwest, one of Tucson's hidden treasure for anyone with a green thumb.

There's cactus, and lots of desert plants you'd except to find here. And some you wouldn't! They call these 'living stones.' They're not cactus, not shrubs, and no, not rocks.

"Living stones is a common name for lithops, and lithops are, boy, they're hard to describe if you don't see 'em. They're, they look like little growing pebbles."

They're weird, and beautiful! Just ask Jane Evans.

"Lithops start out as a seed, like everything, then the seed grows and they keep splitting, and when I say they split, the main pair of leaves open up, and out of the center of that main pair of leaves, comes, emerge a new pair of leaves every season," said Evans.

What's most amazing about these plants, is how their life cycle kicks into overdrive when they know they are finally about to get some water.

"When the fruit gets wet, the fruit is star-shaped, and it opens up so that - it opens almost - you can see it open, you can watch it open. As it opens, it has little channels within the fruit," Evans said.

"When raindrops hit the center of the fruit, the raindrops push the water through the channels, with the seeds in 'em, and make the seed scoot out of the fruit into its growing medium. In the morning, we have a plant that's getting ready to flower this afternoon," Evans said

The buds are coming up, these are the flower buds, these are buds that have opened for a couple of days so they haven't closed quite as tightly, and by mid-afternoon, all of this will be a big sea of yellow," Evans said.

That's right, a plant that may barely be showing a bud at daybreak but can be full of flowers by afternoon! Lithops won't do this all year-round, but when they do, it's spectacular.

"So, I'm going to pour a little bit of water, I'm going to mimick a rain storm. And we'll watch the fruit - if you look closely you can see the little fissures in each fruit. And it - I can see that there's already a little bit of change happening, but it takes a minute or two, or a second or two," Evans said.

"The fruit will start opening up. I don't know if you can see but this one is starting to move. What's most pleasing are the textures and the shapes of the leaves of the plant. We've sent quite a few to South Korea."

 


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