Haworthia cymbiformis var. reddii (Scott) Bayer – a test of an hypothesis. (1997)

M.B. Bayer, with acknowledgment to P.V. Bruyns and J.D. Venter.

It is unfortunate when a situation arises where individuals compete to provide a classification for a group of plants.  The normal process for aspiring taxonomists is to determine what needs to be done that is not being done, and which attracts and interests them and so select a group to study.  There are probably not many instances where different people have worked comfortably together to explore and resolve the taxonomy of any plant group.  The objective of this article is to show how that it should be possible to look rationally and objectively at a problem and produce a solution which can be taken forward in the same way.

I think it is understood in the taxonomic fraternity that one of the main aims of a classification is that it must presume to account for all of the plants in the group in question.  Is this physically possible?  Nobody in the least familiar with Haworthia has any doubt that the territory to be covered for a study of the genus is unbelievably big.  The nature of habitats and size of populations, coupled with intrinsic variability and the sometimes cryptic nature of many of the plants make it not only possible but probable, that exploration of even a relatively small geographical area may miss something important.  This complexity in the field is not unique to Haworthia.  A classification therefore can never be considered to be complete and is only an hypothesis based on what is known.  For that which is at the time unknown, it should be assumptive and predictive.  It is further necessary that the classification meets the needs of a general group of people who will use it.  The nature of these needs is in a large part already expressed in the preceding attempts to classify the group and in the literature associated therewith.  A classification is important in the way it allows of generalisation, extrapolation to hitherto unknown collections and for communication.

The test of the hypothesis contained in the classification is the subsequent successful identification of plants by means of the key provided and also by the incorporation of new data into the structure of the classification.  It can also be tested by the ease with which people communicate about the components of the classification, and, of course, whether it comes to be generally accepted at all.  The strongest and most practical test is its acceptance by curators of herbaria and the way it is used to store and retrieve data in an herbarium.

In the case of plants popular in horticulture and with the general public (such as orchids and succulents) there is often controversy over their classification.  The reason for this controversy is that, because of their popularity with the general public, untrained and non‑professional people are drawn into the process of classification and identification.  Their only justification for this is their own enthusiasm and interest in the subject which they feel generates new and previously unrecorded information which they perceive a real need to express.  It should be recognised that they do not necessarily make any more or fewer mistakes than professionals working on obscure groups or at levels of classification (or sophistication) beyond the reach and interest of the layman.  There are also many cases where so-called ‘amateurs’ have made contributions unsurpassed by professionals.  It should also be noted that many classifications by professionals may very seldom come under any kind of practical and proper scrutiny because those plant groups do not attract the attention of anybody else.  Errors, inconsistencies and absurdities remain undetected.  The professional also goes to the outer limits of his intellect where he/she is just as error‑prone as any other person operating at their extreme.  Both classes of enthusiasts ‑‑ the professional and the layman ‑‑ need to draw on some other wisdom to know (probably) what is right and what is wrong.

One of the particular problems faced by both professional botanists and laymen in a popular group of plants, is the profusion of material that comes to be passed around in the horticultural trade without any information on its origin and frequently under the wrong name.  This considerably confuses the picture and this confusion is difficult to dispel without reference to populations in the field.

A further problem, again experienced by anyone who does not have extensive experience in the field (and indeed of pattern recognition generally, and not only in living systems), is the quite extraordinary variability of taxa like Haworthia.  The degree of variation is not consistent for species or for populations.  In extreme cases, where vegetative propagation has occurred, there may indeed be virtually no variation (eg H. reinwardtii); and at the other, hardly two clones in a population are identical.  There are no quantum steps where categories like sub-species, varieties etc. have consistent and invariable connotation.  The more fundamental and philosophical concept of even the species becomes questionable.

Haworthia has been one case where conflicting views have produced a fair amount of difference of opinion and acrimony among authors, and subsequent confusion in the minds of the audience that need the classification to serve their interest.  At present there are two classifications available for Haworthia, the one by C.L. Scott (Scott 1985) and the other by M.B. Bayer (Bayer 1982).  Neither has proved unassailable and both have shortcomings.  Particular shortcomings of both treatments are that they did not address typification, they did not comprehensively cite herbarium specimens and they did not provide credible identification keys.

In Haworthia the classifications are largely artificial because there are no definite morphological discontinuities between the different species recognised. This is why I have said elsewhere that a truly objective botanical classification would probably reduce the numbers of species to about half of that recognised even by myself.  For such an objective classification a key could perhaps be provided.  A key was provided in the older Handbooks (e.g. Bayer 1982) but my new classification will not provide a key.  The reasons for this are very obvious in my handbooks and in most of my writing on the subject since 1971:-

(1) there are really not enough tangible characters on which to build a key.

(2) where two keys (Scott 1985, Bayer 1982) have been provided, I have no knowledge that anyone has been able to prove their worth or make anything out of them.

Out of about five published reviews of the two accounts by Scott and Bayer, three were quite ambivalent:  they did not attempt to test the classifications and did not espouse either.  Since a reliable and useful key cannot be constructed, I have concluded that photographs and distribution information are the simplest, most reliable and most direct route to obtaining an identification.  The herbarium specimens in the three main South African herbaria follow the revised scheme (Bayer, in ms.) but this could be happenstance rather than cognitive intention.

Part of my strategy in the Handbook (Bayer 1982) was to retain species and varietal names even if the indications were that their status may have been weak.  There were two reasons for this.  Firstly, classification is also a communication process and I tried to match my classification to what I felt was the mood of the day.  Secondly I tried to avoid, where possible, dramatic change which may have had to be reversed, and where there was uncertainty of some kind.  Thirdly I retained names where I felt they had value in terms of the information portrayed if not as substantial taxonomic elements.  Whether or not I succeeded is beside the point because classification is an ongoing event, based on a sample that is known, on how well it is known and unfortunately on personal perceptions too.

The description of Haworthia reddii (Scott 1994) provides me with an opportunity to evaluate the respective hypotheses of Bayer (1982) and Scott (1985).  This account should also be a guide to aspiring taxonomists in the group who may be tempted to start at their own levels of knowledge and competence, rather than properly build on historical fact.

The population upon which H. reddii is based is referred to in the New Haworthia Handbook (Bayer 1982, p.30) under H. batesiana, as follows ‑ “… a collection from Klipplaat northwest of Cathcart is clearly comparable.  However, the plants there are too robust to be regarded as H. batesiana and it appears that there is a tendency towards H. cymbiformis“.

Scott did not seem to make the connection between this reference and the plants collected by Dr Reddi and himself at the same place which had in the meantime become better known as Waterdown Dam.  This is unfortunate because he does mention both H. batesiana and H. cymbiformis as possible relatives of his new species, and it would have been significant if this was an independent and credible observation.

In 1982, H. batesiana was not well known and there were very few pointers to the reality of its existence.  Since then there has been another collection from the Valley of Desolation to confirm its existence there, as well as two collections by P.V. Bruyns from the Kamdeboo Mountains and another from the Tandjiesberg.  These are both in the greater Graaff‑Reinet area.  From observations on these collections (and several others pertaining to H. archeri), it seems batesiana must be incorporated in H. marumiana as suggested in 1982.  Furthermore, the concept of that species needs also to be broadened to include H. archeri and relevant collections (Bayer in ms.).

In Bayer (Haworthiad, 1996) I wrote with reference to H. reddii ‑ “At the time I commented on the Waterdown plants there was some doubt about the existence, whereabouts and whatever of H. batesiana.  Since that time there have been any number of collections which fairly conclusively support its inclusion in H. marumiana.  There is, so far as I know, still nothing to show that marumiana comes far enough east to support speculation of linkage with cymbiformis via reddii.  The area NW of Cathcart to Tarkastad has not been fine‑combed by any collector and it probably would better be regarded as an under‑collected region.  Furthermore, the distance from Cathcart to Tarkastad is considerably less than Tarkastad to Beaufort West and Prince Albert (at the western known limits of marumiana).  There are plants in the upper Kei collected by Peter Bruyns which may strengthen the view that reddii is associated with cymbiformis.  In which case it may be sensible to consider it with the var. lepida.  My inclination is to put it with marumiana“.

It is quite obvious from Bayer (1982) that at the time I did not want to commit myself to a decision on the collection from Waterdown Dam.  I did not regard it as substantial enough as a single population to justify formal description and was fairly sure that it would fit into either of two already described species.  One of these was batesiana, which I suspected would prove to fit into marumiana.  The other was cymbiformis.  At the time the odds were heavily against the latter because it was not known at all from the Kei River valley, and only slightly better for the former.  The nearest populations included the missing H. lepida and a collection of my own from near that site and both of these came from the middle reaches of the Fish River which is rather far to the south.  However there were two collections from much further to the east in the Transkei to hint at a more extensive distribution for H. cymbiformis.

The drainage system of the Kei river and its tributaries is a highly dissected landscape and the terrain is rugged and steep.  There are many rocky cliff faces which undoubtedly harbour Haworthias.  It will be a very difficult task to thoroughly investigate even a small proportion of possible Haworthia sites.  (I did at one time point at the possible significance of river drainage systems regarding species, but it is self‑evident that geographical features of any kind will influence distributions and breeding systems.).  Nevertheless, some collections have now been made from which a clearer picture begins to emerge.

The first interesting collections relevant to the ‘reddii‘ problem were collected by P.V. Bruyns at Inverbolo and Inversomo on the Kei River east of Cathcart.  These were of H. cymbiformis and established for the first time the existence of this species on the Kei River.  He also collected what purports to be H. marumiana var. marumiana in several places north of Queenstown, near to Sterkstroom (in an area which, like Waterdown Dam, is also drained by an upper tributary of the Black Kei).  This indicates that H. marumiana also occurs much further east than previously thought.  These collections have rather attenuate, strongly spined leaves and are highly marked with translucence between the dense reticulation.

In December 1996, I was fortunate that P.V. Bruyns was able to accompany me on a collecting trip to the Eastern Cape and one of our objectives was the upper Black Kei.  It is a tributary of the Black Kei on which the Waterdown Dam was built and the relative location of the populations discussed can be seen on the accompanying map.  We were also helped and motivated by a very old specimen in the Pretoria Herbarium collected by Galpin, which I only became aware of earlier in the year and which indicated the occurrence of plants related to H. cymbiformis and ‘reddii‘ southeast of Queenstown.

We travelled on a road running northeast from Cathcart in the direction of the Galpin site, but stopped at the bridge over the Black Kei on the farm Turnstream.  Peter did the climbing of the huge south‑facing cliff there and came back with several clones of reddii‑like plants.  At the same time I found H. bolusii var. blackbeardiana at the eastern base of the same cliff.  We then turned back and travelled eastward along the river to the base of a still higher west‑facing cliff on the farm Highclere.  Peter again did the very strenuous climbing and again returned with a few clones which he described as difficult to reach on the vertical cliff face.

Peter’s earlier collection along the lower Kei at Inversomo is still further to the south and east.  He also collected H. bolusii var. blackbeardiana at this site.

We took the opportunity to revisit the Waterdown Dam on the way home.  I was really surprised to find the south‑facing cliff alongside the dam clothed with huge numbers of plants.  Although H. marumiana is also a clump‑former, these larger clumps were at lower altitude and much more accessible than H. marumiana usually is.  Some of the plants had very distinctive translucent dots and lines while others are unmarked and uniformly opaque with a faint reticulate patterning on the leaves.  The floral characters mentioned by Scott are not definitive although the flowers do appear to have strongly coloured veins.  We also noted the presence at Waterdown Dam of H. bolusii var. blackbeardiana.  The repeated presence of this species may be important in the context of co‑occurrence which forms the basis of my hypothesis relating geographical distribution to the species concept.  It is only slightly relevant to this article but it is critical to a broader understanding of the genus [1].

The offsets we collected from Turnstream, Highclere and Waterdown Dam have taken several months under relatively low light to grow out enough to make useful comment.  At the moment it is extremely difficult to see any difference between three distinct clones from Turnstream and the collection made on the same trip from Waterdown Dam.  I put it like this because the Waterdown plants are quite variable as to the translucent patterning on the leaves.  This may be almost absent, or the margins may be translucent, or the face of the leaves may be quite heavily marked with a series of elongated translucent dots or short lines.  (It should be noted that in H. cymbiformis as a whole, there is a vast range of translucent patterning, from virtually absent, to only translucent leaf‑margins, to massive reticulate or dotted translucence).  The Turnstream collection comprises a very small sample (smaller than I would have liked, and I would have preferred to have seen the plants in situ if I had been fit enough to do so) but the plants are virtually identical in both shape and size to those Waterdown plants which lack the translucent markings.  The colour is also the same rather opaque mid‑green.  The leaves are sub‑cylindrical, or flatter and slightly recurved with a faint darker reticulation similar to that in H. marumiana var. batesiana, and which is also often evident in H. cymbiformis.  The leaf margins in both the Turnstream and Waterdown collections are relatively smooth with evidence of more spination in a few clones of the bigger Waterdown sample.  This spination is not comparable with that of the Andriesberg collections.

The Highclere plants looked slightly different at the time of collection.  They were bigger, paler in colour and less opaque.  The margins were also more heavily spined.  I relate these plants to a wider concept of H. cymbiformis var. setulifera V.Poelln.  It seems extremely improbable in the context of Haworthia, that these two populations at Turnstream and Highclere could be different species and I cannot harbour any question of this kind.

The Inverbolo and Inversomo plants have been in cultivation for more than eight years and, as they were also grown under brighter light, a straight comparison is perhaps unwise.  In comparison with the Turnstream and Waterdown plants they have relatively short obtuse leaves and form tighter smaller rosettes, the coloration is more intense, slightly more glaucous, and the reticulation, opaqueness and/or translucence in either of the two clones (the sample is too small) representing this collection is practically the same.  I included this collection among the specimens of H. cymbiformis var. setulifera, which is indicative of the compounding difficulty of making decisions, already difficult, below species level.

These three collections taken together seem to show a definite and tangible connection between the Waterdown Dam plants on the upper reaches of the Black Kei, through the collection at Turnstream and the herbarium collection of Galpin’s, to H. cymbiformis as represented by the Highclere collection and also the Inverbolo and Inversomo collections further to the south.

The connection to H. marumiana is weaker.  As one moves northeastwards from Tarkastad, populations of H. marumiana retain their more plentiful and rather slender leaves and do not tend to become more like the Waterdown collections or like H. cymbiformis.  The translucence becomes denser and the plants more spinescent.  Collections from the western Karoo (Sutherland, Merweville and Carnarvon by Bruyns and Bayer) which enforce the inclusion of H. archeri under marumiana, weaken the argument to include reddii there too.  In particular, forms of H. marumiana var. batesiana which do bear resemblance to the Waterdown Dam collections occur only very far to the west around Graaff-Reinet.  The clinal trend in this species from Tarkastad northeastward, is thus rather away from a resemblance to the Waterdown Dam plants than towards it.  Thus, if one is to seek continuity of variation, the Waterdown Dam populations do not form part of the series exhibited by H. marumiana but fit into the series of variants now known in H. cymbiformis along the upper reaches of the Kei River.

In 1982 I postulated that there were two species viz. H. batesiana and H. cymbiformis, involved in an assessment of the Waterdown Dam collections and was unable to fit it conclusively into either of these.  Nevertheless, I was convinced that it could be accommodated here and this was, and has been, the prediction of my classification hypothesis.

More recent collections (mostly by P.V. Bruyns) have filled in much detail in the distributions of both H. cymbiformis and H. marumiana that was, at that time, unknown.  These have indicated that H. batesiana and H. archeri can be included in a broader concept of H. marumiana (also as predicted), and they have amplified the known information on H. cymbiformis.  This new information shows that, if the species concepts of geographical continuity and co‑occurrence are followed, ‘reddii‘ is not a discrete new element standing outside of known and variable species.  My prediction that it should not be accommodated in H. batesiana (i.e. H. marumiana) seems to be correct, and our investigations seem to confirm rather that it is an integral part of H. cymbiformis.     The important fact then is that recognition as a distinct species is not warranted, and it can adequately be discussed and classified in terms of the structure of the Haworthia Handbooks.  The hypothesis has not been disproved and there is a rational basis for development of a still better understanding.

An important implication has been that if reddii and similar individual populations are to be treated as distinct species, then each new discovery of which there could be many, will require a new name and the system will become increasingly disordered and fail.  Evidence of exactly this problem is presented by the descriptions of H. batteniae, H. pringlei, H. joeyae, H. venusta and H. mcmurtryi all of which can similarly be accommodated within other variable species.  As far as variability is concerned, the plants from Waterdown Dam, and other populations now associated with them, are not exceptional.  If we had to continue naming each apparently different element like this, we would end up with a structure that has no coherence, no predictive element and no value in the sense that botanical classification is required to express ‘pattern’ and carry information generally.  Such a system may work for the collector in that he may have a name for a particular clone or set of clones, but have no wider or deeper meaning.  Many people may be comfortable with and feel justified in using Scott’s treatment.  Nevertheless, such an approach simply does not accommodate the incredible variation within the genus.

Because of the conflicting views that seem to be an inevitable part of the process of plant classification, many commentators have said that it is not a science but an art.  However, this conflict should not be there.  The essence of science is replication i.e. the deduction of conclusions (for example, a classification) from experiments (for example, observations on plants) which should be repeatable.  In my work on Haworthia, I have been very conscious of the historic conflict in the genus, the need for credibility, and the responsibility attached to making public statements.  Unfortunately, while I may have made mistakes, other authors seem to be less conscientious.  Therefore the presentation of differing taxonomic treatments requires the reader to discriminate between them.  This demands of the reader that he consider carefully the evidence put forward by authors and then discriminate for himself which author has concluded correctly.  Most readers are not prepared to go to this amount of trouble and would rather declare the taxonomy of the group concerned to be ‘controversial’.  This is unfair to all authors and also to other readers as it discounts the effort and sacrifice these people put into collecting and communicating information.  The opinion that taxonomy is an art with little relevance to the enjoyment of the plants themselves, stems from intellectual laziness and ignorance.  It belies the fact that the mere conveyance of a name, which can be forgotten in the very same moment, satisfies some deep psychological need.  The audience also has the responsibility to think analytically and critically about what is laid before them.  Otherwise they may get a meaningless classification that they have earned, but which is just another yoke around the neck of others who may be striving for the light.

    [1]  My classification hypothesis is built on a definition of species which pre-supposes that they are ‘continuous genetically and morphologically in space and/or time’ (Bayer 1982).  Therefore the prediction then is that not only is it probable that H. cymbiformis and H. marumiana will eventually found to be continuous in geographic space, but it is probable that they will also be found to be continuous with H. bolusii.  The entire hypothesis should fit within the framework of taxonomic botany, whatever the level of expertise, and satisfy the requirements of scientific discipline.  Any two people should come to the same conclusion.  If there is conflict there is error.

Haworthia Revisited – 9. Haworthia cymbiformis

9. Haworthia cymbiformis (Haw.) Duv., Pl.Succ.Hort.Alenc. :7(1809).  Bayer :110(1976).  Bayer :35(1982).  Scott :91(1985).  H. concava Haw. Revis. :58(1821).  Aloe cymbiformis Haw., Trans.Linn.Soc. 7:8(1804).  Sims, Bot.Mag. 1:21,t.802(1805).  Salm-Dyck, Monogr. 11:t.1(1840). Type: Not preserved.  Neotype (designated here): icon, t.802, Bot.Mag..  Epitype (ex B&M): Walmer, Port Elizabeth, Smith 2844 (NBG):  H. planifolia Haw., Phil.Mag. 44:282(1825).  H. cymbiformis var. planifolia (Haw.) Baker JLinn.Soc. 18:209(1880).  Aloe planifolia (Haw.) Salm-Dyck, Monogr. 11:t.2(1840).  Type: icon. t2, Salm-Dyck, Monogr. 1840:  H. cymbiformis var. angustata V.Poelln., Feddes Repert.Spec.Nov. 45:166(1938).  Type:  Discovery region unknown, T.Foster.  Not preserved:  H. cymbiformis var. angustata fa subarmata idem. 45:166(1938).  Type: Rocklands, Adelaide, W.E.Armstrong in Triebn. 1187.  Not preserved.  Neotype (designated here): CAPE-3226 (Fort Beaufort): Rocklands, W.E.Armstrong in Smith 2801 (NBG):  H. cymbiformis var. compacta Triebn. idem. Type: Cape, west of Peddie, Mrs G. McLaren in Triebn. 1148.  Not preserved.  Neotype (designated here): CAPE-3327 (Peddie): W Woolridge, Peddie (-AB), Bayer 4648 (NBG).  H. planifolia var. exulata V.Poelln., Feddes Repert.Spec.Nov. 43:93(1938).  idem. 45:162(1938).  Type: Cape, Ubi?, C.H.Woolley in Long 392.  Not preserved.  Neotype (designated here): Photogr. H.G.Fourcade of Long 392 (NBG):  H. planifolia var. planifolia fa agavoides Triebn. et V.Poelln., Feddes Repert.Spec.Nov. 45:162(1938).  Type: Cape, Fort Beaufort, W.E.Armstrong in Triebn. 1169.  Not preserved.  Neotype (designated here): CAPE-3226 (Fort Beaufort): Sulphur Baths (-DC), Bayer 4655 (NBG):  et fa alta ibid. Type: Cape, Grahamstown, Mrs Helm in Triebn. 851.  Not preserved:  et fa olivacea ibid.  Type: Cape, Quagga West, Mrs Helm in Triebn. 853.  Not preserved:  et fa robusta ibid.  Type: Cape, Baakens Valley, Mrs I.King 100 in Triebn. 1066.  Not preserved.  Neotype (designated here): CAPE-3325(Port Elizabeth): Baakens Valley (-DC), Smith 3894 (NBG):  et var. incrassata V.Poell. idem. 45:163(1938).  Type: Cape, Kowie River, Mrs Archibald 335 in Long 446.  Not preserved:  et var. sublaevis V.Poelln., Kakteenk. 6:67(1938).  idem., Feddes Repert.Spec.Nov. 45:163(1938).  Type: Albany district, Mrs Britten in Triebn. 940.  Not preserved:  et var. longifolia Triebn. et V.Poelln. idem.  Type: Cape, Grahamstown, Mrs Helm in Triebn. 864.  Not preserved:  et var. longifolia fa calochlora ibid.  Type: Cape, Port Elizabeth, Mrs Helm in Triebn. 941.  Not preserved:  H. planifolia var. poellnitziana Res. ibid. 48:133(1940).  Type: ex Hort., Hamburg.  Not preserved:  H. lepida Smith JS.Afr.Bot. 10:21(1944).  Type: Cape, Albany district, between Carlisle Bridge and Fort Brown, Smith 5066 (NBG).

cymbiformis: boat-shaped.

Rosette to 130mm φ, partially stemmed, proliferous.  Leaves broad ovate to lanceolate, flat to slightly concave, generally <1/3 as thick as wide, usually opaque, green turning yellowish to pink hued on exposure.  Inflorescence to 250mm, 10-15 flowers, lax.  Flowers white.

1982 – This name has been used interchangeably with H. planifolia for a very widespread and variable species growing in the Eastern Cape.  This species has practically the same distribution range as H. cooperi but unlike that species is an opaque, truer green colour.  It forms dense mats with a fairly superficial root system and grows on rocky slopes and krantzes along rivers and streams.  H. planifolia Haw. was only described in 1825 and was stated to be less proliferous and with distinctly flatter leaves.  Baker placed the two species together and a study of Von Poellnitz’s and Smith’s records plainly show that neither could clearly distinguish these two species.  Von Poellnitz in fact described H. planifolia var. transiens and H. cymbiformis var. translucens from the same locality, and even stated that he did not know how to clearly separate the two species.  Von Poellnitz in Feddes Repert. Spec. Nov. 41:199(1937) records H. cymbiformis from Graaff Reinett (Triebner 861) but in 1938 (ibid. 45:163) describes H. planifolia var. incrassata from the same collection.  Berger, in a masterly piece of irrationality, justified separate sections for the two species.  Smith transferred H. incurvula V.Poelln. from the section Muticae to the section Obtusatae, on the basis of observed continuity with H. cymbiformis.  In Flowering Plants of Southern Africa (pl. 356, 1929) a plant identical to H. incurvula is illustrated under the name H. cymbiformis var. planifolia (Haw.) Baker.  It can only be concluded that one name be retained for the entire complex and this is H. cymbiformis.

Uitewaal (1948) put forward the view that H. obtusa was not related to H. cymbiformis at all, but that is was an earlier name for H. pilifera (here a synonym of H. cooperi).  He based his observation on a colour plate in the Kew herbarium, and goes as far as to say that Haworth’s original description is faulty.  The strongest argument in favour of Uitewaal’s contention is the historical one.  None of Haworth’s species can be referred to Baker’s H. cooperi and this is hard to concede knowing how widespread and variable that species is.  The name H. obtusa is here considered to be probably synonymous with H. cymbiformis and should probably be rejected as superfluous and as a source of confusion.  The distribution range extends from the Bashee River in Transkei, to Prince Alfred’s Pass in the west, and northwards to Fort Beaufort.  Variation within individual populations is small but no two populations are quite the same.  Thus there is scope for a good many more varieties than previously recognised.  However, to stay within manageable limits, only the one really different form viz. fa ramosa with the elongated stem, and varieties not limited to single populations, are upheld.  The var. incurvula is apparently restricted to Plutosvale which is a contradiction, but, because Smith discusses continuity with H. cymbiformis (atypical for Smith and not borne out by his field records), because of the possibility of a relationship with H. translucens subsp. tenera, and because of similar forms occurring in the Humansdorp area, it is maintained.  The var. transiens is really only more translucent, and at the type locality also larger, than incurvula, otherwise they may have been considered synonymous.  The var. umbraticola is a distinctive variety from the Swartwaterpoort west of Alicedale and northeastwards to Fort Beaufort. The leaves are very obtuse and round in cross‑section.  The fenestrate blunt tips with shining pellucid areas separated by dark green lines, make it a most attractive variety.  H. cymbiformis occurs primarily in the summer rainfall area and is very easy to grow in cultivation.  It proliferates to an rapidly and should be exposed to at least some direct sunlight to prevent bloating and excessive softening of the plants.  This species is also particularly prone to losing its roots with overwatering so it is also essentially a winter‑growing species which likes at least some resting period during the summer.

1999 – Sims in 1805 commented on the name H. cymbiformis, saying ‘Its name (with too much latitude by the way) is taken from its leaves’, which prompted Haworth to change the name to H. concava.  Von Poellnitz repeatedly exclaimed at the poor coloration of these plants in Europe as opposed to the colours which the plants develop under good light, when they are indeed very attractive.  The two illustrations in Salm Dyck’s Monograph of Aloe cymbiformis and Aloe planifolia are really very similar in relation to the variation within this one species.  One would think thus that a more sensible and conservative approach to species would have been achieved a great deal earlier than it has.  It is not obvious to which species H. cymbiformis is most closely allied, but it does seem to be closely associated with H. cooperi.  Bayer and Pilbeam may have been in error in their treatment of Uitewaal’s re-appraisal of H. obtusa Haw. as it is not easy to find the obvious field counterpart.  The solution suggested below may not be the most appropriate.  Col Scott also regarded obtusa as a variety of H. cymbiformis but unfortunately seems to have illustrated the H. cooperi variant.  A population on the Kat River near Fort Beaufort sampled by Scott, supports his argument and the decision taken here.  The explanation regarding the var. incurvula in the 1982 Handbook is poorly constructed.  What was meant, was the recognition of the variety despite its limited distribution, because of the evidence claimed by G.G. Smith, and because of its possible transitional nature towards H. gracilis.  H. lepida is regarded as a variant of H. cymbiformis because it could not be re-located despite a detailed description of the one locality where it was recorded.  A collection further to the east does not appear to differ dramatically from an already wide range of forms.

Breuer and Metzing nominate a specimen as a neotype when the early illustrations are excellent and are really the basis for the correct and historical application of the name. Haworth cited and accepted the illustrations in Botanical Magazine as well.


a. var. cymbiformis.
The typical species is considered to comprise the main body of the species which occurs from Port Elizabeth, eastwards to East London and inland to Adelaide and Committees on the Fish River.  Plants in this area tend to have broad, flat smooth leaves without spines.

Distribution: 3226 (Fort Beaufort): Near Alice (-DB), Smith 5635 (NBG); Kat River, W. Alice (-DB), Smith 105 (NBG); 13km S. Fort Beaufort (-DC), Smith 5617, 5617a (NBG); Rocklands (-DC), W.E.Armstrong in Smith 2801 (NBG); Sulphur Baths (-DC), Smith 2795, 3826, 7371 (NBG), Bayer 4655 (NBG); W. Sulphur Baths (-DC), Bayer & Bruyns 6593 (NBG).  3227 (Kingwilliamstown): Debe Nek (-CC), Britten in PRE 39472; Fort Murray Bridge (-CD), Smith 3111, 3317, 3576 (NBG); Bridal Drift (-DC), Smith 2806 (NBG); Umdanzini (-DD), Smith 5336, 5337 (NBG).  3325 (Port Elizabeth): Kranspoort, W. Patterson (-BC), Bayer 4549 (NBG); Slagboom Dam (-BC), Branch 37 (NBG); Below old Fort (-DC), Smith 5040 (NBG); Walmer (-DC), Smith 2790, 2844 (NBG); Baakens Valley (-DC), Smith 3894 (NBG), Paterson 155 (BOL).  3326 (Grahamstown): Fish River valley (-AA), Dyer 4549 (PRE); Carlisle Bridge (-AA), Smith 5567, 5597 (NBG); Cloudlands (-AB), Britten in BOL71308; Howiesonspoort (-AD), Smith 105a, 439, 909, 2843b, 5302, 5305 (NBG); The Fort (-BA), Courtenay-Latimer in Smith 5066 (BOL, PRE), Smith 5066 (NBG, PRE); Between Carlisle Bridge and Fort Brown (-BA), Smith 5066 (NBG); E. Fort Brown (-BA), Bayer 1620 (NBG); Ballinafad (-BB), Smith 3365, 5404a, 5405a (NBG), Bayer 4652 (NBG); Horseshoe (-BB), Smith 2765, 3124, 5311, 5312 (NBG); Committees (-BB), Compton 17834 (NBG), Smith 5071, 5404 (NBG); 3km W. Committees (-BB), Smith 3382 (NBG); S. Committees (-BB), Smith in NBG322/40; Giffords Bush (-BB), Smith 1997 (NBG); 30km E. Peddie (-BB), Smith 3515 (NBG); Grahamstown (-BC), Britten 218 (PRE); Grahamstown (-BC), Britten in PRE 34903; Grahamstown (-BC), Britten in PRE 39480; Grahamstown (-BC), Curator PRE Bot. Garden in PRE 26300; 24km S. Grahamstown (-BC); Stayner in KG254/70; Blaaukranz (-BC), Smith 5544 (NBG); Fernkloof (-BC), Smith 5629 (NBG); Mt. Drive (-BC), Britten (NBG), Dyer 6 (BOL); Kowie (-BC), Dyer 7 (BOL); Kariega (-DA), Branch 43 (NBG); Bussock Farm (-DA), Smith 768 (NBG).  3327 (East London): Peddie (-AA), Smith 3112 (NBG); Paradise, Wooldridge (-AA), Smith 2800, 5602, 5671 (NBG); Gqora (-AA), Smith 5777 (NBG); W Woolridge, Peddie (-AB), Smith 3113, 3115 (NBG), Bayer 4648 (NBG); Kapp-Fish confluence (-AC), Bayer 4654 (NBG); Kaffirdrift (-AC), Smith 655, 5255, 5261, 5262, 5263, 5274 (NBG); E. Fish River (-AC), Smith 5256 (NBG); Wesley to Falloden (-AD), Smith 3157 (NBG); Chalumna (-BB), Smith 571, 2786, 3089, 3391, 3392, 5131, 5313, 5400, 6199 (NBG).

Inadequately located: Cape, Marloth 6284 (PRE), Long in Smith 3892 (NBG), Smith 398, 2804, 3112 (NBG), Stellenbosch 3889, 5560; ex hort, Ross-Frames in NBG76/48; Zaysdorp, NBG101825, Warden (BOL); ex hort, Whitehill (NBG); Albany, Dyer in NBG1806/30, Britten in NBG 734/31, Luyt in NBG309/45.

b. var. incurvula (V.Poelln.) Bayer
:124(1976).  Bayer :36(1982).  Scott :94(1985).  H. incurvula V.Poelln., Feddes Repert.Spec.Nov. 31:85(1932).  H. cymbiformis var. planifolia Flow.Pl.S.Afr. 9:t356(1929).  Type: Grahamstown, Plutosvale, Mrs E. Ferguson.  Not preserved.  Neotype (B&M): Plutosvale, Britten (BOL71307).

incurvula: curved inwards.

As stated above, there is not very much substance to this variety either.  It is smaller than the norm and relatively narrow-leaved.  It has been collected many times from the same locality.  The flower is very similar to that of H. gracilis var. minima, but Smith nevertheless maintained that it is continuous with H. cymbiformis.  What he said was this “At the type locality near the top of the slope of a very deep valley, this plant is hardly variable, but as one descends, the plant changes, and at a point in the valley about a mile from the type locality, they are in appearance approaching H. cymbiformis.” The correct way to establish this is with physical evidence, and this is absent.

Distribution: 3326 (Grahamstown): Fish River Ridge (-AB), Britten in PRE 34959; Plutosvale (‑BA), Smith in NBG340/35 (BOL), Smith 5402 (NBG), Britten 11 (BOL), Britten in PRE 34909, in PRE 39477, Long 1029 (PRE), Dyer 3 (BOL), Dyer 2082 (PRE), Fourcade 99 (NBG), Smith 915 (NBG); Road to Plutosvale (-BA), Reynolds 2948 (PRE); 16km from Grahamstown (-BA), Erens in PRE 34910; S. Plutosvale (-BA), Smith 5402, 5403 (NBG); S. Hunts Drift (-BB), Smith 5741, 6508 (NBG).

Inadequately located: Albany, Dyer in NBG1803/30 (NBG), Smith 1123 (NBG), Luckhoff in NBG 404/34, Smith in NBG340/35, Britten in NBG740/31 (BOL); ex hort, NBG705/30, NBG1110/36, Luyt in NBG302/45, in NBG306/45, Whitehill (NBG).

c. var. obtusa (Haw.) Baker
JLinn.Soc. 18:209(1880).  Bayer and Pilbeam, Cact.Succ.J(U.S.)46:166(1974).  Scott idem. 48:260(1976).  Scott :93(1985).  H. obtusa Haw., Phil.Mag. 46:282(1825).  Type: Cape ex hort Kew.  Not preserved.  Lectotype (designated here): Icon Kew library:  H. umbraticola V.Poelln., Kakteenkunde 9:134(1937).  H. cymbiformis  var. umbraticola (V.Poelln.) Bayer :164(1976).  Bayer :36(1982).  Type: Swartwaterpoort, near Adelaide, W.E. Armstrong.  Not preserved.  Lectotype (B&M): icon (B):  H. hilliana V.Poelln., Desert Pl.Life 9:103(1937).  H. umbraticola var. hilliana  V.Poelln., Feddes Repert.Spec.Nov. 44:234(1938).  Type: Cape, ex hort Kew.  Not preserved:  H. obtusa var. pilifera fa truncata Jacobs., Handb.Succ.Pl. 2:574(1960).  Type: ?.  Not preserved.

obtusa: with obtuse leaves.

As discussed under H. cooperi, there is a real problem in understanding the situation concerning the blunt leaved forms of that species and of H. cymbiformis.  I have seen very dark green forms with brown venation in cultivation which I would not relate to H. cooperi.  The highly translucent forms from Fort Beaufort are greener and seem to be continuous with H. cymbiformis through the Swartwaterpoort.  Certainly the plant mentioned above from the Kat River, are very close indeed in appearance to H. cooperi var. obtusata except for the brownish-green coloration.  It has been noted that plants of that variety from Inverbolo (Upper Kei River) tend to become greener under lower light intensities.  The herbarium record shows that the typical form of H. cymbiformis also occurs along the Kat River.  Very robust forms in fact occur 10km S. Fort Beaufort.  H. cooperi var. pilifera is also present in very close proximity.  At Kagasmond and probably at Olifantsbeen nearby, the plants are very similar to the rather longer leaved forms, still with obtuse tips, which are found in Swartwaterpoort near Alicedale.  A Kagasmond collection is also cited under var. dielsiana, which is indicative of the difficulty in using dry herbarium material to make indisputable identifications.  G. Marx has made a collection from Swartwaterpoort in which the plants have the coloration of H. cooperi but the boat-shaped leaves of H. cymbiformis.

Distribution: 3226 (Fort Beaufort): Kagasmond (-CD), Bayer & Bruyns 6562 (NBG); Olifantsbeen (-CD), Krynauw in NBG268/43 (NBG); S. Adelaide (‑CD), Krynauw in NBG 67996; Blinkwater (-DA), Smith 6195 (NBG). Scott 600 (PRE), Bayer 4651 (NBG); Kat River, 10km SE. Fort Beaufort (-DC), Scott 1065 (PRE); Rocklands, Adelaide (-DC), Smith 2801 (NBG).  3325(Port Elizabeth (-BB), Bayer 4653 (NBG).  3326(Grahamstown): Thornkloof (-AA), Bayliss in KG382/76; S. Alicedale (-AC), Bayer 4650 (NBG); Alicedale (-AC), Britten in PRE 34905.

d. var. ramosa (Smith) Bayer comb.nov. 
H. cymbiformis fa ramosa (Smith) Bayer :149(1976).  Bayer :34(1982).  H. ramosa Smith, JS.Afr.Bot. 10:22(1940).  Type: CAPE-3427 (Peddie): Wooldridge (-AB), Smith 3168 (NBG).

ramosa: branched.

Consistency is a difficult ideal and this variety does not  conform well with the principle of substance.  It is only known from a long crescent-like rock-face north of Woolridge where plants vary from the normal stemless to increasingly stemmed plants on a gradient from west to east.

Distribution: 3327 (Peddie): Wooldridge (-AB), Smith 3168 (NBG, PRE), Smith 3105 (NBG), Bayer 4648 (NBG); NW. Wooldridge (-AB), Smith 3168, 3169 (NBG).

e. var. reddii (Scott) Bayer comb.nov. 
H. reddii Scott, Cactus Succ.J(US) 66:182(1994).  Type: CAPE-3226( Fort Beaufort): Waterdown Dam, Cathcart(-BB), Scott 8968 (PRE).

reddii: for Dr V.B. Reddi.

Plants from this population at Waterdown Dam have been known for a long time and identified (Bayer,1982) as possibly intermediate between H. cymbiformis and H. batesiana.  Col Scott similarly mentions both species names in his discussion and the matter appears rather problematic.  The population was portrayed as a depauperate one, at least in my perception, with quite considerable variation between the few odd plants at the site.  The few clones sampled in 1982 were not as robust as the one described by Scott, who also thought the population to consist of but a few individuals.  A re-visit to the site by Bayer and Bruyns in 1996 revealed that the south-facing cliff alongside the dam is clothed with huge numbers of plants.  The huge clumps are just like those of H. cymbiformis.  Some of the plants have very distinctive translucent dots and lines, others unmarked and uniformly opaque.  The floral characters mentioned by Scott are not definitive but the flowers do appear to have strongly colored veins.  At the time (Bayer :30, 1982) the species batesiana was still upheld, although not positively associated with field populations.  Since then the range of H. marumiana  has been shown to extend to at least Queenstown and further north.  The Cathcart population does not seem to belong there although the block patterning in the leaves does suggest this.

At the same time the known range of H. cymbiformis has been extended by P.V. Bruyns to the upper reaches of the Black Kei much nearer to Queenstown.  This is on a south-facing cliff at the farm Turnstream.   Here there are small forms which distantly resemble H. lepida as described and illustrated by Smith, and also suggesting the same possible link with H. marumiana and certainly with reddii.  This is particularly so because the Waterdown Dam is on the upper reach of the Black Kei.  A little to the southeast is also a population of larger plants on a very high west-facing cliff which are however with spined margins, and thus apparently belonging to the var. setulifera.  The block-patterning in the leaves of these two populations is not as marked as the Waterdown plants.  There is an old Galpin collection from even nearer to Queenstown.  Col. Scott was not correct in his opinions about H. marumiana var. batesiana and it is evident from his book that H. marumiana was unfamiliar to him too.  The population at the Waterdown Dam does not seem substantial enough in terms of viability nor range, to justify species rank.  What is needed is cognitive exploration of potential new localities to substantiate already expressed opinions.  In this case there are new records for var. batesiana as well as for H. marumiana and H. cymbiformis.

Distribution: 3226 (Fort Beaufort): Waterdown Dam, Cathcart(-BB), Scott 8968 (PRE); Klipplaat Dam (-BB), Bayer 4649 (NBG).  3227 (Kingwilliamstown): Gwatyn farm (-AB), Galpin 8280 (PRE); Turnstream (-AB), Bayer & Bruyns 6572 (NBG).

f. var. setulifera (V.Poelln.) Bayer comb.nov. 
H. planifolia var. setulifera V.Poelln., Kakteenkunde 5:54(1938). idem., Feddes Repert.Spec.Nov. 45:163(1938).  Type: East London, Stellenbosch 3332.  Not preserved.  Neotype (designated here): CAPE-3228(East London): Kwelegha bridge (-CC), Smith 5257 (NBG):  H. cymbiformis var. obesa V.Poelln. idem. 45:166(1938).  Type: Idutywa, Bashee River (-BA), G.W. Reynolds.  Not preserved.  Neotype (designated here): CAPE-3228(Butterworth): Xobo River, E. Idutywa (-BA), Smith 7796 (NBG).

setulifera: bearing small bristles.

In the earlier handbooks, the representative specimen for the species was poorly chosen from a Nahoon River specimen.  It is apparent from Haworth’s acceptance of the Bot. Mag. illustration that the more western forms such as thosa at Baakens River or Howiesons Poort, would have been more in keeping with the original circumscription of either the typical species or H. planifolia.  East and north of East London, H. cymbiformis begins to develop a thicker and shorter, more deltoid leaf and the teeth become markedly spined and von Poellnitz’ name is re-instated for this variety.

Distribution: 3128 (Umtata): Mquanduli (-DC), Walker in NBG2271/27 (BOL).  3227 (Kingwilliamstown): Highclere (AB), Bayer & Bruyns 6573 (NBG);  Inverbolo (-BC), Bruyns (NBG); Bluewater (-DA), Smith 676 (NBG); Near Komgha (-DB), Marloth 6510 (PRE); Tangla River (-DC), Smith 3881, 3882a (NBG); Newlands Location (-DD), Smith 3510 (NBG); Pump Stn. (-DD), Smith 611, 2785, 3096 (NBG); Kings Farm (-DD), Smith 3071 (NBG); McCleantown (-DD), Smith 3126, 3127, 2883, 2884, 2885, 3882 (NBG); Slippery Drift (-DD), Smith 3122, 3125, 3134, 3134a (NBG); below Horseshoe (-DD), Smith 3097 (NBG); Fort Jackson (-DD), Smith 3133, 3388, 3389, 3389a (NBG).  3228 (Butterworth): Willowvale (-AD), Luyt in NBG180/42, in NBG17/46, in NBG57/46, NBG341/38; Xobo River, E. Idutywa (-BA), Smith 7796 (NBG), Smith in NBG341/35 (BOL), Reynolds 2850 (PRE), Reynolds 146 (BOL); Xobo (-BA), Reynolds in PRE 39470, in NBG660/38, Smith 2760, 2796 (NBG); S. Mooiplaas (-CC), Bayer 1706 (NBG); Gonubie (-CC), Smith 6826 (NBG); Kwelegha bridge (-CC), Smith 5257 (NBG); Kwelegha (-CC), Smith 5251, 7183 (NBG); Kei River (-CC), Holmes (BOL).

g. var. transiens (V.Poelln.) Bayer
:162(1976).  Bayer :36(1982).  H. planifolia var. transiens V.Poelln., Feddes Repert.Spec.Nov.45:163 (1938).  Type: Cape, Prince Alfred Pass, Archibald 327.  Not preserved.  Lectotype (B&M): icon (B):  H. cymbiformis var. translucens Triebn. et V.Poelln. idem. 45:166(1938).  Scott :94(1985).  Type: Cape, Prince Alfred Pass, Lategan in Triebn.1137.  Not preserved.  Neotype (designated here): CAPE-3323(Willowmore): Prince Alfred Pass, Smith 5709 (NBG):  H. cymbiformis var. multifolia Triebn. idem. 45:166(1938).  Type: Uitenhage, W.E. Armstrong.  Not preserved.  Neotype (designated here): CAPE-3325 (Port Elizabeth): Hellsgate, UItenhage (-CB), Smith 2794 (NBG):  H. cymbiformis var. brevifolia Triebn. et V.Poelln. idem.: 165(1938).  Type: Cape, Hellsgate, Uitenhage, Mrs I. King in Treibn. 1068.  Not preserved.  Neotype (designated here): CAPE-3325 (Port Elizabeth: Hellsgate, Mrs I. King in Smith 2756 (NBG).

transiens: changing into.

In the publication where Von Poellnitz published his two varieties, he actually expresses doubt about identifying three parent species.  Yet he states that H. planifolia var transiens is between H. planifolia and H. cymbiformis, but nearer to the former ‘to look at’.  Two pages further he describes a var. translucens of H. cymbiformis from the same locality.  In this work the circumscription of var. transiens is widened to include the Uitenhage elements at Hellsgate.  There are variants in the Gamtoos Valley (eg. Andrieskraal) which are reminiscent of this highly translucent form, and it is not certain just how these variants relate to either H. cymbiformis or H. gracilis.   The element H. gracilis var. picturata is applied to those forms of that species which are very similar to H. cymbiformis variants.  The ‘clear’ way (a comment made by Dr M. Hayashi)  in which var. transiens is related to H. mucronata is symptomatic of the alternative solutions available in classifying Haworthias, which are not always clear.  It is generally understood that the Little Karoo species are continuous with the Eastern Cape species and this is commonly expressed in Von Poellnitz identifications, and also a feature of Col. Scott’s species distributions.

Thus H. mucronata can be allied with equal facility to either H. cymbiformis or H. cooperi, when in fact in the field it is more intimately related to H. decipiens.  The location of this note is a powerful reminder that distinctions between species are highly blurred and that alternative solutions are possible.

Distribution: 3323 (Willowmore): Prince Alfred Pass (-CC), Smith 5624a, 5709, 5624, 5624a (NBG), Taute (BOL), Fourcade 3490 (BOL); Oskloof (-DA), Bruyns 7077 (BOL); Luiskraal (-DA), Forrester 399 (NBG).  3324 (Steytlerville): Scholtzberg (-CA), Van Jaarsveld 7804 (NBG); Andrieskraal (-DA), Fourcade 176 (NBG).  3325 (Port Elizabeth): Hellsgate, Uitenhage (-CB), Smith 2794 (NBG); Hellsgate, Mrs I. King in Smith 2756 (NBG); Kemachs (-CB), Smith 905 (NBG); Near Port Elizabeth (-DC), Smith 3892 (NBG); Stayner in NBG46/56, Stayner in KG80/70 (NBG), Taute in NBG1283/36, in NBG468/37, Taute .

Inadequately located: ex hort, NBG486/30.

H. cymbiformis - Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, vol. 21 t. 802 (1805) [S.T. Edwards]8067
 H. cuspida - Addisonia, vol. 23 t. 741 (1954-1959) [M.E. Eaton] 162903
Haworthia cymbiformis (Haw.) Duval
[as Aloe cymbiformis Haw.]
Curtis’s Botanical Magazine,
vol. 21: t. 802 (1805) [S.T. Edwards]
Haworthia cymbiformis (Haw.) Duval
[as Haworthia cuspidata Haw.]
Addisonia, vol. 23: t. 741
(1954-1959) [M.E. Eaton]

Volume 1, Chapter 1:- Haworthia gracilis, H. cymbiformis and H. cooperi in the greater Baviaanskloof area

I will be disappointed if anyone had concluded I had any fixed ideas on the classification of these three species and their relationship. It has a problem which has long been on my mind. What happened recently (Nov.1998) is that I was offered the use of a time-share apartment at Jeffrey’s Bay, near the mouth of the Gamtoos River. I used this opportunity to spend six days in the field testing my hypothesis concerning the species Haworthia cymbiformis, Haworthia cooperi and Haworthia gracilis, and this is what I would like to record.  Subsequent to that trip (Mar.1999) I planned and executed an excursion through the Baviaanskloof to Grahamstown and Stutterheim in March 1999, and repeated the exploration in Sept. and Oct, 1999.

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Volume 1, Chapter 4:- Haworthia cooperi and Haworthia bolusii var. blackbeardiana.

One of the greatest difficulties in Haworthia is that of trying to recognise discrete species.  This translates into confusion which can be attributed to writers.  The initial source of confusion is without doubt the nature of the plants themselves, and this is not a problem confined to Haworthia.  The species are often not easily recognisable and discrete entities.  I abhor the statement that the genus is in a state of active evolution, but this does at least seem to convey a message that readers understand, even if it is somewhat hackneyed.  My observations on Haworthia are based on a definition of species as a system of living organisms which are continuous in time and space.  In my New Haworthia Handbook, I suggested that a primary problem lay in separating H. bolusii  and H. cooperi, and for the purposes of that work I largely discounted the secondary problems.  My first concern was to identify core areas and names as working postulates.  This did not mean I was unaware of lesser problems contained within the recognition of those two species.  The purpose of this paper is to present my current understanding of the problem.

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Volume 1, Chapter 5:- The Haworthias of Kaboega.

M B Bayer, 16 Hope Str., 8000 Cape Town.
Ian Ritchie, Box 44, 5850 Somerset East.

Kaboega (also spelt Kabouga) is now an assemblage of farms (De Plaat, Wilgerfontein, Vygeboomfontein, Klipfontein) nestled against the north slopes of the Zuurberg mountains, north of Kirkwood.  It is only about 15km away from Kirkwood as the crow flies, but 150km away by road.  Oudekraal is about 20km east and it is the source of Haworthia angustifolia var. baylissii and Gasteria baylissiana.  There are several records of Haworthia for the Kirkwood area, and von Poellnitz named H. stiemiei (Regarded as insufficiently known and not recognised by Col C.L. Scott or myself) from there.  He also identified plants from Kaboega and Uyepoort, both described as “at Kirkwood”) as H. altilinea var. denticulata (Haw.) V. Poelln.  These plants are all in the melange that I attribute to H. cooperi var. gordoniana (the subject of another long essay).  The Kaboega farm lies on the Kaboega river which drains an area of about 1m ha and then flows through the long Kaboegapoort into the Sundays River just north-west of Kirkwood.  The terrain is very broken with the sandstone Zuurbergs themselves dominating the southern boundary at about 850 to 950m above sea level.  The lowest point on the farm is at about 300m and the northern lesser shale or dolerite peaks reach 550 to 650m.  The vegetation on the sandstones is Dry Mountain Fynbos.  North of this is Karoo Valley Bushveld.  Thus Kaboega is at an ecotone of the karoid veld, Eastern Cape grassland and the Noorsveld (Euphorbia thicket) of the Jansenville area.

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Volume 2, Chapter 7:- Continuity of Haworthia on the Zuurberg

This problem of continuity is one I seem to have difficulty in conveying to my readers and listeners.  The difference between one species and another is a discontinuity and, if we believe in evolution, it is the resultant of a break-up of continuity in its ancestral parent species.  The “model” we have in our minds, is of progressive change from one recognisable entity to another by evolution.  Geographic distribution and re-distribution are key elements in this process.  But we do not seem accept this in the way we try to classify plants or interpret classifications.  Apart from recognising that change could be gradual and therefore manifest continuity, the change may be from a complex variable system which contains different levels of continuity within itself, and not from a simply understood uniform ‘ancestor’.

The result is that in a genus like Haworthia, which is by no means exceptional, the differences between species i.e. the discontinuities between “species”, may be very difficult to either recognise or rationalise.  It in fact becomes a statistical operation in which all the characters should be involved i.e. multiple variate analysis.  If all the characters could be measured and quantified it is statistically possible to subject all the data so obtained by one of several statistical methods to measure “distance” and “significant difference” between groups of plants which we want to ascertain are species, varieties or even just hybrids.  The process of “cladistics” is the use of a system to generate a branching “tree” of relationships base on characters which are also evaluated and loaded for chronological priority (primitive versus advanced).  In using such a mathematical package, it is pretended that the classification becomes “objective” and hence replicable to satisfy the scientific requirement.  In my estimation, the cladistic process assumes that a two-dimensional “tree” adequately represents the spatial and temporal changes of evolutionary processes, and it does not work.

Somebody might one day try to apply such methods to Haworthia and I say “Good luck to you”.  My experience of characterisation and variation in the biological systems I have experience of, and including Haworthia, suggest to me that sensible, practical, experienced “eye-balling” will prove the better bet.  Ultimately in Haworthia, I expect that technology and cladistic methods will be testable on the result of my classification.  This is not a conceited and arrogant claim.  It is a simple reflection on what classification actually is and what it is for.  Much of botanical classification has been done by amateurs with no, or minimal, specific training and qualification for that field at all eg. G.W.Reynolds, L.C.Leach, T.L.Salter, J.Lavranos, C.L.Scott, G.G.Smith, M.B.Bayer etc.  Their classifications form the basis of many scientific observations, sometimes by scientists who have no conception of the significance, or insignificance of the names they use or what they may actually mean.  The classifications may have little to recommend them except the fact that they appear to conform to the approved nomenclatural style.

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Volume 4, Chapter 10:- Post-closure

This note is not strictly after closure because Cameron MacMaster (Cameron knows the plants, especially the bulbs, of the E Cape intimately and was instrumental in the re-location of H. marumiana many years ago.) sent me a picture (Fig.1) of a Haworthia from Glen Avon Falls east of Somerset East some time ago and this has been a lure to me ever since I saw vdW287(PRE).  It should be noted that this specimen is cited, I must note a sentiment of considerable reservation which was not conveyed by the rigidity of print, in Haworthia Revisited (p.67) under H. decipiens var minor… “3225 (Somerset East): in valley behind Bosberg (-DA), van der Westhuizen 287 (PRE).”  I have visited the Bosberg in a weak attempt to locate such a plant after a fruitless attempt to determine who and where the collector was and is.  The area is intimidating in its vastness as are so many of the hills and mountains of the Cape and with so much still to explore, this area has not been a priority.  In fact I have just recognized that while I wrote Revisited in response to pressure, my subsequent exploration has been to seek validation for my own comfort rather than to try and impress anyone.  This recent visit to the Bosberg is only because an odd opportunity arose for me to revisit my friends (Ian and Sandi Ritchie) on Kaboega, coupled with interest from a distant botanist acquaintance in Prof. Richard Cowling.  Prof. Cowlingis one of those rare botanists from whom I have really learned something to think about rather than just to remember.  I had contacted him because in my correspondence with Jan Vlok about the vegetation of the Mossel Bay area, he had copied responses to Prof. Cowling.  The outcome was that I was introduced to Dr Syd Ramdhani who is now contracted under Cowling to study the biogeography of Bulbine as a post-doctoral task.  Dr Ramdhani studied Kniphofia and works in the molecular-biology laboratory of Rhodes University managed by Dr Nigel Barker.  Dr Ramdhani is now also tasked and occupied with a feasibility study of Haworthia as a target group for extended biogeographical research where H. cooperi has been suggested by me as a possible fruitful area of interest.  (These botanists have been warned not to be influenced by Bayer!)   So I have been aware that the MacMaster plant could signify a replicate of the Kaboega/Helspoort/Plutos Vale/Baviaanskloof/ complexes which suggest that H. cooperi and H. cymbiformis may be one species.  My visit to Glen Avon Falls was then added to the familiarization of Dr Ramdhani with Haworthia on Kaboega.

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Volume 6, Chapter 3:- Still more about Haworthia on Kaboega

Part 1.
Kaboega is a set of farms on the northeast of the Zuurberg Mountain range, north of Kirkwood and off the Addo National Park. I wrote about the haworthias that occur there in Haworthia Update Vol.1. There is also an article in Aloe 40:10 (2003) in which there is a discussion of the variation of those haworthias as related to geology and topography. My wife and I frequently visit Kaboega to renew relationships with Ian and Sandy Ritchie who live there. Each time we go we try to explore some different area. We generally end-up with something that is notably new.
There is a real problem in trying to reconcile the populations we see with the names that are available and the way in which I have tried to formalize them myself. The problem is that Kaboega seems to occupy some sort of central and neutral position and it is by no means easy to arrive at any clean rational classification. Three of my species are involved, and I have to say they are “mine” because other authors are in strong disagreement. The three species I see are H. cymbiformis, H. cooperi, and H. aristata. It is firstly necessary to explain that I interpret the name H. aristata in Haworthia Revisited quite differently from what I might have done earlier; and quite differently from other authors who have simply taken the easy route and associated the name with Little Karoo elements for which I use the name H. mucronata. My interpretation of the name will be quite evident from my writings and from the pictures submitted with this article. The use of the name H. cymbiformis with respect to Kaboega is a major problem for someone like myself who is firmly convinced that geographical relationships are foremost in the recognition of species as living systems. On Kaboega, plants that look like H. cymbiformis seem to proceed out of a complex that is surely H. cooperi. If one properly considers all the populations that I ascribe to H. aristata one is seriously confronted with the reality that it is also a geographic variant of H. cooperi.

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Kaboega is located in the Zuurberg Mountains north of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Read more about this in Haworthia Update Volume 1, Chapter 5:- The Haworthias of Kaboega. There are a mind-boggling array of Haworthia populations here in an area considered to be the meeting point of several vegetation biomes. There is much exposed rock, and the soil is very skeletal, composed of three major groups: sandstone, mudstone, and glacial deposits. These pictures are of a Haworthia cooperi variant that occurs high up on sandstone. I went to this spot because researchers had sent me a picture of a cycad festooned with Haworthia. I did not get to the exact spot but have seen the way it forms hanging bundles in other situations.

Haworthia glauca!! can also be found here. On Kaboega these plants often have a very close resemblance to H. coarctata and it is no co-incidence that the distributions of these two species complement each other. An essential element of species recognition is their juxtaposition and if they occur in very close association or not. Darwin said as much.

I visited four populations of this greenish cooperi. One can find plants like this from east of Grahamstown right through to the Little Karoo. Here they are on Dwyka (glacial) skeletal soil.

These next are in the shales low down in the valley on Kaboega – I name it H. aristata. It is very common in the area but complements H. cooperi while there are populations that are neither. Populations cannot be treated in isolation and there is a distinct possibility/probability that I have been too generous with species. The attempts to find answers via DNA sequencing should make the vendors of that technology thoroughly ashamed.

More of these green things. I would guess that these would class as the simple progenitors of cymbiformis and cooperi. Perhaps even of mucronata?

This is Haworthiopsis sordida that does not occur, as far as I know, north of this. H. nigra also occurs here at it’s most southern at this longitude. Altogether it is quite a complex network of distribution patterns that relate to greater plant geography.

From another population as variants on a theme. have seen about 30 such just on this small mountain area and it just suggests what is still unseen on the length and breadth.

Not a great diagram but a way to appreciate the drammatic choreography of plant distribution and how it impacts on classification. Without it Haworthia names make no sense other than as imagined and fantasized. Cooperi and cymbiformis occur as intertwined species to the east and south. In the south they extend westwards to get lost in H. mucronata. Cymbiformis as an independent species does not enter Kaboega except as an observable variant of H. cooperi. The cooperi gets lost westwards as variants of H. decipiens. Perhaps close northwards as H. aristata. H. glauca does cross the Zuurberg but is here confused with H. coarctata that may occur in recognosable form on the eastern tip. Angustifolia is on the eastern end too but does not enter Kaboega. Neither do H. monticola or H. zantneriana from the west. This is also closely tied to the intrigue of winter vs summer rainfall and still further to the massive geological changes of the very recent..

k map