Blog Image

Lithops project blog


This is the blog page of the Lithops Project, in which we investigate the extent and evolution of locally optimized camouflage coloration in the enigmatic African "stone plants" belonging the genus Lithops.

In the first part of the project, we use hyperspectral and multispectral camera equipment for making detailed comparisons of the visual properties of Lithops species and the soil on which they grow across numerous locations in southern Africa.

We set out for our second month-long field expedition on June 27, 2018. As on the 2016 expedition, we aim to post updates every 2-3 days.

Our imaging expeditions are supported by National Geographic Society Science and Exploration Europe. Hyperspectral camera equipment is provided by Specim Spectral Imaging Ltd. and the Surface Optics Corporation.

For more information on our project, check out

Lithops pictures

Expedition blog 2016 Posted on Tue, April 19, 2016 07:29PM

Since this is officially a blog on Lithops, I’ll also post Jeroen’s informative schematic illustration of the structure of Lithops plants, and a photo of the cute species Lithops olivacea.

Our photographic arsenal

Expedition blog 2016 Posted on Tue, April 19, 2016 06:40PM

We’ve been in the backcountry for a few days, but now we’re camping near the N7 highway with a cellphone tower in sight. We’ve gotten our routines running, and have managed to process two populations on the best days. Today our luck was worse – our work at the first Lithops marmorata site in the morning was cut short by rain, and in the afternoon a thunderstorm developed right when we were imaging another population.

Below are a couple of pics of our photographic arsenal. At each location we aim to measure 10-20 individual Lithops plants and the soil on which they grow. To get a detailed view of the spectral properties of the plants, we use a Surface Optics SOC710-VP hyperspectral imager. The hyperspec camera records reflectances at 128 wavelenght bands between c. 400 and 1000 nm. Note that there is actually a Lithops plant right below the camera in this photo.

The same individual plants are also photographed using a Nikon D7100 DSLR camera that has been modified so that it records both visible and ultraviolet (UV) light. In this case, we take two images, one using a UV-blocking filter (so that we get standard visible-light RGB images) and one using a filter that blocks visible light (so that we get a UV picture using two of the sensors). The filters are changed between the shots using a slider rig that is a variant of Jolyon Troscianko’s model (see The slider and the two filters are visible in front of the lens in the photo below.