Mystery – part 17, H. mirabilis and groenewaldii

50. 2019.7.9 – While I have dwelt a bit on the oddities that comprise H floribunda, I have said very little about H. mirabilis. In my early days I recognised things like H. maraisii, H. magnifica, H. heidelbergensis and how specimens cited from von Poelnitz’ H. nitidula may have actually been drawn from 10 different species of the time! I have since written extensively about H. mirabilis and pointed out several times the “problem of H. magnifica”. The population that this “species” was drawn from is so variable as to stagger the mind, and yet not that different for each of the many other populations. Yet the biggest purveyor, and one of the supposed all-knowing experts on Haworthia tells me that the binomial H. magnifica makes sense to him. Nothing can be more bizarre than this. A truly mental distortion. Influence of the moon. : ) So please bear in mind that H. floribunda is not some out-of-the-ordinary mix of unlike things. Here are just a few variants from the “magnifica” source, and one (at least) definitely infused with H. retusa. Call it hybrid if you insist.

It should perhaps be remembered that it has been mistakenly assumed (particularly by G G Smith) that Haworthia could be revised in the same way that Reynolds did with the genus Aloe. In Aloe, the individuals in the population are close to identical and in fact also from population to population. Haworthia taxonomists use the same approach today and it does not work. It is plain fraudulent to base a description on what is essentially an unrepresentative specimen or sample. Hence the absurdity of a statement that any description could have been reasonably made of a population like that of H. magnifica, and make sense.

51. 2019.7.10 – So let us look now at these amazing plants that comprise H. groenewaldii without confusing respect and deep consideration for the persona, the equally remarkable quality of the plants, with the problem of a classification that is true. The habitat on the east bank of the Buffeljags River needs to be noted as quite unlike any other occupied by the retusoids/mirabiloids/emelyoids. It is shallow alluvium over a very old shale layer.

Lawrence Loucka: Is the pointy tipped one from the same population?

Bruce Bayer: Yes Lawrence, I am glad you asked – and this is how amateur taxonomists depart from basic principles. A basic principle is that a species is a universal truth and all inclusive – so this must be H. groenewaldii too just as are all the other variants that are side-lined. There is absurdity and incongruence in the way these things are described and typified. This is what I highlighted in the case of H. magnifica. More to come.

52. 2019.7.11 – On the east bank there are 3 fairly discrete populations and it was obvious that looking across the flood plain that they must also be on the opposite west bank. Sure enough, also 3 and more discrete populations. Now there is a difference between east and west bank. The erosion/deposition cycles are or were, quite different. The east bank is abutted by wheat fields while the west bank is a nature reserve (Bontebok National Park) precisely because it was unsuitable for agriculture!! Thank goodness for non-arabiity. But like the east bank there is a veneer of alluvium of probably equal age. You can determine if the plants on the two banks are strictly the same by the same criteria “new species” is touted. Mirabilis, floribunda, and Tulista marginata. T. minimima in proximity but all in discrete habitat. There is some pupping as Solomon asked but the plains dwellers are less prone to pupping than cliff occupants anyway.

53. 2019.7.12 – Now a second population from the west bank and from these few pictures you now know what groenewaldii unmistakably is? You also have a good image of H. floribunda? and H. retusa? and H. mirabilis? and you think H. magnifica is a good species? And of course like the author of the H groenewaldii you know H. mutica intimately. Some surprises in store for you. Perhaps from the limited array of pictures posted here you are better equipped than some of these taxonomists who proclaim names.