Haworthia Revisited – 13. Haworthia gracilis

13. H. gracilis V.Poelln., Feddes Repert.Spec.Nov. 27:133(1929).  idem. 41:201(1937).  idem., Des.Pl.Life 9:90(1937).  idem., Feddes Repert.Spec.Nov.  H. translucens sensu Bayer :162(1976).  Bayer ::56(1982).  non Scott :69(1985).  Type: Graaff-Reinet, Amalienstein, Willowmore, Stellenbosch.  Not preserved.  Neotype (designated here): CAPE-3326 (Grahamstown): Hellspoort (-BA), Britten (PRE).

gracilis: graceful.

Rosette stemless. to 6cm φ, proliferous.  Leaves 30-40, lanceolate acuminate, incurved with slender short marginal spines, pale greyish-green, upper surface translucent between lines.  Inflorescence simple to 200mm.  Flowers white.

1982 – Reflection on the first edition of the Handbook showed that there were two main areas of uncertainty.  The first of these was the relation of the blue‑green species, i.e. H. semiviva, H. bolusii, H. blackbeardiana and H. cooperi.  The second was H. translucens.  In the introduction it is stated that H. bolusii, H. cooperi, H. cymbiformis, H. habdomadis and H. decipiens diffuse into the mountains between Uniondale and Port Elizabeth.  To these can still be added H. zantneriana, H. xyphiophylla and perhaps even H. arachnoidea, so that forms of each of these species may contribute to this concept of H. translucens.  To the present day the composition of H. translucens is thus still very unclear.  There are a considerable number of unlikely elements which can only be thrown together until more understanding of this complex problem can be gained.  The ssp. tenera occurs in the middle Fish River valley east of Grahamstown.  In Von Poellnitz’s type locality, Plutos Vale, both glabrous and haired forms occur in populations within 75 metres of one another.  H. cymbiformis var. incurvula is only a little further away.  H. gracilis was collected north‑east of Grahamstown at Hellskloof and here the leaves of the plants are longer, more erect, and glabrous.  The flower is essentially the same.  However, the home of H. translucens is really the Gamtoos Valley and in the first edition it was pointed out how difficult it was to reconcile such a disjunct population.  Although not providing an entirely satisfactory explanation, the discovery of the small forms of H. bolusii in the Jansenville area do suggest how this occurs.  Small translucent and fairly hairy forms occur in the conglomerates west of Uitenhage.  Darker more opaque and less hairy forms occur at Dead Man’s Gulch and Coega to the east.  Dr W.R. Branch has collected very large forms from the lower Krom River near Humansdorp. Many different collections are recorded from Loerie in the lower Gamtoos valley to as far west as Uniondale.  H. cymbiformis is also distributed across the area and the var. transiens is found at Prince Alfred’s Pass in the extreme west of the distribution range.  The similarity of some collections of this species (e.g. at Andrieskraal) to H. cymbiformis var. incurvula are further evidence of some relationship between the Gamtoos and the Fish River species.

1999 – Here some attempt is made to cast a little more light on a confused situation and it has to be admitted that this solution may be inadequate.  In the first place it is apparent that the name ‘translucens’ as typified by the illustration in Curtis’ Bot. Mag., is applicable to Haworthia herbacea and not available for this species.  In the second place the small dark more opaque forms referred to above are now regarded in this work as the missing H. aristata of Haworth.  The name H. gracilis as used here now, is to refer to a wide range of populations extending from Grahamstown westwards to at least Uniondale.  Considerable local knowledge will be required to properly evaluate the species as presented here.  The recognition of varieties will hopefully present a realistic view of the variables involved and hopefully facilitate communication about these plants.  The fact that the var. minima appears to re-occur around Uitenhage is curious.  The var. picturata, which has been collected in the Baakens River Valley together with H. cymbiformis, is also odd.  Its relationship with H. cymbiformis var. transiens needs to be explored.  The var. viridis is also a poorly known entity with an improbable distribution.  It is inextricably linked with H. decipiens var. minor.  The distributions for the varieties are not very convincing at all, and as is the case elsewhere, they provide only the skeleton of an hypothesis which should be examined in the field.  It seems that there is some interaction with both H. cymbiformis and H. cooperi, if not also with H. bolusii var. blackbeardiana.  There is strong interaction with H. decipiens.  It appears that there is often a transformation H. gracilis var. viridis to H. decipiens var. minor from steep, perhaps shady south-facing cliff to lower lying more horizontal and exposed sites.   It will also be obvious from the specimens cited that in two case there is co-occurrence with H. decipiens.  There are three major river valleys which need to be better explored.  These are the Gamtoos, Swartkops and Sundays.  The intervening mountain ranges are a formidable challenge and this is one species in which the varieties are not closely tied to geographical distribution.


a. var. gracilis.
This variety is mostly known from northwest of Grahamstown and it is not certain how widely it may occur or with which species it may interact.  There are a number of collections from the Eastern Cape which have the same narrow elongate and relatively blunt leaf-tip and the Gladhurst (Adelaide) citation is very close geographically to H. cymbiformis var. obtusa, and to H. cooperi.  In the Hankey/Patensie area these are usually somewhat bluish-green and associated therefore with H. cooperi var. gordoniana.  It is a difficult distinction to make as the latter may then be an ecotype associated with low-lying level areas where the plants tend to be single, are less proliferous and are withdrawn into the soil.  Gerhard Marx collected a larger form from northeast of Grahamstown which is very similar to H. cooperi var. leightonii.  At Jeffrey’s Bay it is difficult to decide if the small element there represents H. cooperi var. gordoniana or H. gracilis.  Similarly towards Middleton there is a population which contains two elements, one is H. cooperi and the other could be either H. bolusii var. blackbeardiana or H. gracilis.  This is an interesting comparison because it raises the possibility that the latter two are continuous.

Distribution: 3226 (Fort Beaufort): Gladhurst, Adelaide (-AC), Krynauw in NBG272/43 (NBG), Venter & Bayer (NBG).  3324(Steytlerville): Paul Sauer Dam (-DA), Swart (NBG); Mistkraal (-DA), Smith 7062 (NBG); Ferndale (-DB), Smith 3672, 3675, 3677, 3678, 6204, 7185 (NBG); 2km E. Hankey (-DD), Bayer 4476 (NBG); Hankey (-DD), Paterson 24 (BOL), Fourcade 3329 (BOL); Gamtoos Heights (-DD), King 90 (BOL); Longmore (-DD), Bayer & Bruyns 6855 (NBG).  3325(Port Elizabeth): Loerie (-CC), Britten (BOL).   3326(Grahamstown): Hellspoort (-AB), Dyer 4 (BOL), Long (BOL), Blackburn in BOL71332, Britten in PRE 34922, in PRE 34929, Smith in NBG326/34, Bayer in KG336/70 (NBG); 5km N. Grahamstown (-AB), Smith in NBG332/34; Howiesonspoort (-AC), James 549 (BOL); 7km NE. Grahamstown (-BA), Bayer & Venter 6603 (NBG); Brakkloof (-BA), Acocks 12046 (PRE); Fish River (-BA), Dyer 580 (PRE).

Inadequately located: Albany, Dyer in NBG1804/30.

b. var. isabellae (V.Poelln.) Bayer comb.nov.
H. isabellae  V.Poelln., Feddes Repert.Spec.Nov. 44:226(1938).  non Scott :76(1985).  Type: Cape, near Port Elizabeth, Mrs I King.  Not preserved.  Neotype (designated here): CAPE‑3325 (Port Elizabeth): Humansdorp, Gamtoos bridge (‑CC), H. Hall in NBG 68799.

isabellae: for Mrs Isabella King.

This variety is recognised as the more traditional form of the species in which the outer leaves are spreading and the inner leaves more erect.  It is very proliferous.  The leaves are not as bluish-green, nor as swollen towards the tip as in  H. cooperi variants which have often been assigned to this species.  The marginal spines are quite dense and relatively long for the narrow-leaves, as compared to H. cooperi var gordoniana which also occurs in the Gamtoos Valley.

Distribution: 3324 (Steytlerville): Dam se Drif (-CA), Rossouw 483 (NBG); Moordenaarskloof (-CD), Stayner (NBG); Ferndale (-DB), Smith 3674 (NBG); Gamtoos (-DD), Stayner in KG367/62 (NBG); Hankey to Humansdorp (-DD), Smith 7267 (NBG); Gamtoos River (-DD), Smith 7439 (NBG); NE. Hankey (-DD), Bayer 4475 (NBG), Stayner (NBG).  3325 (Port Elizabeth): Loerie (-CC), Britten in PRE 34924; Gamtoos Ferry (-CC), Stayner in KG341/62; Vanstaadens to Loerie (-CC), Smith 3112 (NBG); Gamtoos bridge (‑CC), King 92 (BOL), H. Hall in NBG 68799, Smith 7266 (NBG); Longmore Forest (-CC), Bayer & Bruyns 6555 (NBG).  3424 (Humansdorp): Woodlands (-BA), Marais in NBG8/66, Krom River Estuary, Rippon (-BB), Branch 1 (NBG).

c. var. tenera (V.Pielln.) M.B.Bayer. 
H. tenera V.Repert. Spec. Nov. 31: 86(1932). Scott: 76 (1985). H. translucens ssp. tenera (V.Poelln.) Bayer :161(1976).  Bayer :56 (1982).  Type: Cape, Plutosvale, Grahamstown, Miss Blackbeard 15.  Not preserved.  Neotype (B&M): Glenelg, Smith 5416 (NBG). H. minima Baker, J. Linn. Soc. 18: 215 (1880). Nom. illeg. ype: Cape, imported by Tuck, in hort Kew.  Not preserved.  Lectotype (designated here): icon (K).

tenera: tender or delicate.

This variety passed without comment in the early editions and Scott is justified in regarding it as discrete against the ill-defined view of the species then presented.  It is well-represented in the area northeast and east of Grahamstown and is quite variable.  Entirely glabrous forms occur and Smith’s collection from north of the type locality is also markedly less greyish green, and also less prominently spined.  Breuer and Metzing have unfortunately chosen this specimen as the type for H. tenera when many specimens from Plutosvale were available.

An additional and important consideration in including this distinct element with H. gracilis, is a range of collections from the Uitenhage area (Groendal in particular) where very similar growth forms occur.  These differs from the typical variety in respect of the more compact incurved rosettes and off course, spination.  There are forms of var. isabellae which are practically identical.  To complicate the issue, it should be noted that H. gracilis var. gracilis also occurs near to Plutosvale, and its relation there with H. cymbiformia var. incurvula is not clear.

Distribution: 3323 (Willowmore): Spreeugat (-DB), Bruyns 1650 (NBG).  3324(Steytlerville): Wilgekloof (-CA), Branch 36 (NBG); Groot Kommando Kloof (-CB), van Jaarsveld 7704 (NBG); Ziewefontein (-CB), Fourcade 5471 (BOL); Kouga (-CB), Esterhuysen 7119 (BOL); Scholtzberg (-CB), van Jaarsveld 7792a (NBG); Ashoek (-DA), Smith 3679, 3680 (NBG); Kaan (-DD), Smith 3686 (NBG); 3325 (Port Elizabeth): Groendal wilderness, Nounek (-CA), Scharf 1061 (PRE); Groendal Dam (-CB), Bayer 1404a, Bruyns 1822 (NBG).  3326 (Grahamstown): Plutosvale (-BA), Britten in PRE 34942, Britten 12 (BOL), Smith 9, 5419 (NBG), Bayer in KG47/72, in KG47/72a (NBG), Dyer in NBG 802/30 (BOL), Dyer 2173 (PRE), Erens 435 (PRE), Hutchinson 1577 (BOL); Top Plutosvale (-BA), Smith 5417; Glenelg (-BA), Smith 5416 (NBG); Near Fletchers Farm (-BA), Smith 5418, 5420 (NBG); S. Hunts Drift (-BB), Smith 5679 (NBG); S. Committees (-BB), Smith 6509 (NBG).

Inadequately located: Uitenhage, Long in NBG1456/35, Britten in NBG741/31, Cook (BOL); Albany, Luyt in NBG305/45; Hankey, Coates in NBG369/39, NBG355/39; Patensie, Smith 3025 (NBG); Port Elizabeth, Arnold (BOL).

d. var. picturata var.nov. 
Type: 3325(Port Elizabeth): Enon (-BC), Thode 21507 (NBG, Holo.).

picturata: variegated.

Differs from the type in having glabrous, bright green leaves, in which the translucent areas of the leaves contrast strongly with the dark green opaque reticulation.  (A var. gracilis foliis glabris et bene notatis differt).

This variety has generally been overlooked as intermediate between typical H. cymbiformis and the var. transiens.  However, there are localities where this variant reportedly grows together with H. cymbiformis, and it appears to be derived primarily from the gracilis element in the greater Baviaanskloof.  The leaf-tips are either normally pointed, and thus very similar to the var. isabellae, or may be blunt and incurved.  The main distinction is the distinct translucent reticulation contrasting with the opaque lower leaf surfaces.

Distribution: 3323 (Willowmore): 9km E. Haarlem (-CB), Smith 3669 (NBG).  3324 (Steytlerville): Geelhoutboskloof (-CA), Viviers 879 (NBG); Diepriver (-CD), Van Jaarsveld 15342 (NBG); N. Andrieskraal (-DA), Fourcade 176 ((NBG); Kleinwaterkloof (-DA), Smith 7102 (NBG); Grootwaterkloof (-DA), Smith 7103 (NBG); 3.5km W. Hankey (-DD), Stayner (NBG); Kleinrivier road (-DD), Smith 2931 (NBG).  3325(Port Elizabeth): Enon (-BC), Thode A2774 (PRE), Thode 21507, 26090 (NBG); Longmore Forest (-CC), Branch 369 (NBG).

e. var. viridis M.B.Bayer var.nov. 
Type: CAPE-3325 (Port Elizabeth): Perdepoort (-AC), Smith 6867 (NBG, Holo.).

viridis: green.

Differs from the type in the brighter green coloration and in its more northwesterly geographic distribution.  (A var. gracilis foliiis viridibus vividuis et distributione geographica septentionali-occidentali differt).

Occurs to the northwest in the Winterhoek mountains and may have the form typical of the species, with longish, erect and glabrous incurving leaves, or be somewhat squatter with broader incurving leaves.  One record from east of Hankey is attributed to this variety, and there are two records from the Steytlerville area where the small form of H. decipiens is also recorded.  Field observations show a transition directly to H. decipiens var. minor and also to H. decipiens var. pringlei.  As stated earlier, it is very difficult to detect any geographical patterns in the variation of the species and it is probably over-ridden by ecotypic variation in a topographically diverse region.

Distribution: 3324 (Steytlerville): Oulande, Steytlerville (-AA), Schoeman in KG22/84 (NBG); Campherpoort (-AA), Smith 3594, 3646 (NBG), Bruyns 1629 (NBG), Bayer 2074 (NBG); Die Poort (-AD), Branch 353 (NBG); Dorschfontein (-BC), Bayer 3375 (NBG), Bayer & Bruyns 6589 (NBG); Diepnekkloof (-CA), Branch 35 (NBG); Kouga Dam (-DA), Stayner in KG343/62 (NBG); Witrivier (-DA), Bayliss in KG376/75 (NBG); Ouplaas (-DB), Bruyns 7040b (BOL); Hankey to Patensie (-DD), Bosch in KG73/70 (NBG).  3325 (Port Elizabeth): Brakfontein (-AC), Bayer 4198 (NBG); Perdepoort (-AC), Smith 6867 (NBG), Branch 10 (NBG), Schoeman (NBG); E. Perdepoort (-AC), Smith 7337 (NBG), Bayer & Venter 6600 (NBG); Sapkamma (-AC), Bayer & Venter 6620 (NBG); Perdepoort Mt.(-CA), Swart in Bayer 970 (NBG).

Inadequately located: Baviaanskloof, Bayliss in KG379/76 (NBG).