Haworthia Revisited – 12. Haworthia floribunda

12. Haworthia floribunda V.Poelln., Feddes Repert.Spec.Nov. 40:149(1936).  idem. 44:228(1938).  Bayer :117(1976).  Bayer :39(1982).  Scott :58(1985).  Type: Cape, Heidelberg, Mrs E. Ferguson.  Not preserved.  Lectotype: icon (B).  Epitype (B&M): Blackdown, N Heidelberg, Bayer 158 (NBG).

floribunda: many flowered.

Rosette stemless, up to 3cm φ, slowly proliferous.  Leaves 20-30 dark green opaque, upto ovate-lanceolate, spreading, twisted with flattened, rounded tip, margins scabrid to dentate.  Inflorescence simple, to 250mm.  Flowers 10-15, greenish-white, few open together.

1982 – This is a very interesting small species with twisted lanceolate leaves with blunt rounded tips.  It was described from plants collected north of Heidelberg (Cape) where they are all glabrous and where hybridisation with H. turgida also occurs.  It has not been collected further west although there is a very old collection in the Botanical Research Institute (PRE) from Swellendam.  Around Riversdale the plants may have scabrous leaves with denticulate leaf margins.  There is a known population north of Albertinia in which the plants have more and shorter leaves, as well as another similar population near Gouritzmond.  These two populations may suggest an affinity with H. chloracantha, as put forward by A.E. Speechley (unpublished).  There may be such a relationship, but it seems likely that H. floribunda and H. parksiana are in fact related.  They both tend to grow well‑shaded and in moss and lichen.  Further exploration of the Gouritz River tributaries may produce an answer to this puzzle.

1999 – The Gouritz valley has provided no answers to the above puzzle but there have been a number of other significant collections.  There is a population south of Swellendam of which specimens in cultivation have been very robust.  They are relatively light green in cultivation and also individual plants are smooth as was the original type.  Odd specimens have pointed leaves.  Northwest of Swellendam is a similar but darker green plant also with pointed leaves and this is taken to be H. variegata.  Further south from Swellendam, H. floribunda assumes the same form as around Riversdale.  At Great Brak there is a population of plants growing with H. pygmaea which were assumed to be H. floribunda, but they are probably simply H. chloracantha var. denticulifera.  This is true also of the populations south of Albertinia and also of one population south of Heidelberg which has pointed leaves.  The flattened leaf-tip is not confined to this species, and appears in H. magnifica and H. maraisii.  A relationship with H. variegata is probable through the two populations in the vicinity of Swellendam.


a. var. floribunda.
The typical variety is not typical of the species at all and this glabrous variety is only known from the type locality at Heidelberg where it is very scarce.  Hybrids with H. turgida are also present.

Distribution: 3420 (Bredasdorp): 6km N. Heidelberg (-BB), Smith 5545 (NBG, PRE), Bayer 158 (NBG); Heidelberg commonage (-BB), Ferguson in BOL20507.

b. var. dentata  var. nov. 
Type: CAPE-3421 (Riversdale): W. Riversdale, Dekenah 90 in Smith 5502 (NBG, Holo.).

dentata: toothed.

Differs in being smaller, to 4cmφ, the leaves very dark green, slightly scabrid and with spined margins.  (A var. floribunda foliis subtiliter scabridis et denti-marginatis differt).

This variety describes the smaller form which has distinct and widely spaced marginal spines.  The leaves are very dark green and also slightly scabrid.  It occurs from the Bontebok Park at Swellendam to northwest of Riversdale, and includes larger forms east of Riversdale also with pronounced marginal spines.

Distribution: 3420 (Bredasdorp): Bontebok Park (-BA), Bayer 3439 (NBG); E. Buffeljachts (-BA), Viviers 156 (NBG).  3421(Riversdale): W. Riversdale (-AA), Dekenah 90 in Smith 5502 (NBG): 5km N. Riversdale (-AB), Smith 5381 (NBG, PRE); 15km E. Riversdale (-AB), Smith 5758 (NBG); Dassieklip (-AC), Venter 92/31 (NBG); Wydersrivier (-BA), Smith 5491, 6781 (NBG), Bayer 2311.

c. var. viridescens var.nov. 
Type: CAPE-3420 (Swellendam): S. Swellendam (-AB), De Kok (NBG, Holo.).

viridescens: becoming green.

Very green plants with darker coloration at the basal leaf margins.  Relatively glabrous and more robust in cultivation.  (A var. floribunda habitu robusto et colore viridi vivido ad margines basales foliorum atranti differt).

This is a large robust plant in cultivation and includes two forms, one of which has pointed leaves.  The coloration is greener than normal for even cultivated plants of the species.

Distribution: 3420 (Bredasdorp): Below Swellendam Stn. (-AB)., C.A. Smith 2724a (PRE); S. Swellendam (-AB), D.De Kok (NBG).

Volume 2, Chapter 1:- The curious variability of Haworthia floribunda

M.B.Bayer, 16 Hope Str., 8001 Cape Town.
R.W.Kent, 16206 Rostrata Rd., Poway, CA92604.

Haworthia Revisited was drafted in 1996, and since then the first author has undertaken a number of field excursions in an attempt to clarify uncertainties.  The putative nature of species of Haworthia as recognised by Bayer (listed in Haworthia Revisited, Umdaus 1999) and the importance he attached to geographic distribution are stressed in all his publications.  This is because these so-called species seem to vary continuously with one another in that context of geography.  Classification seeks to portray relationships and origins.  Hence when a species has been recognised, a cognitive attempt has been made to speculate on phylogenetics, where distribution must be significant.  In the case of Haworthia floribunda this proves rather difficult, and this article is a discussion of the relationship of this species to its possible relatives.  The point we do make is that the Linnaean binomial system, as well as cladistic methods, seem neither to deal with nor portray the problem of reticulate relationships.  In other words, the nomenclatural system and the way we classify plants and analyse their relationships assumes linear dichotomy in those relationships.

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Volume 2, Chapter 2:- A population of Haworthia magnifica/maraisii

After writing Haworthia Revisited in 1996, I became aware of just how inadequate readers seem to be to the task of assimilating all the available literature on Haworthia, in the botanical and intellectual climate in which we live.  It seems as though the more information we have the more confused we become.  In order to generate the material needed to disprove or fortify my classification hypothesis, I have spent a further considerable amount of time in the field and in cultivating plants from seed.  Unfortunately the editorial support and speed of publication has not kept pace with my own effort and much of my writing and my evidence is still in manuscript form.  This short essay was therefore to put forward only a little more evidence to show just how complex plant species are – not necessarily only in Haworthia.

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Volume 2, Chapter 12:- Haworthia rossouwii VPoelln. and the demise of H. serrata Bayer

This appeared as an article in ALOE 38:31 (2001).  Unfortunately there was a problem with illustrations and captions and these are corrected here.  A comment is also added as an addendum to respond to criticism by I.Breuer published in Alsterworthia 2:13(2002).

I described Haworthia serrata in 1973 (Jl S.AFr.Bot.39:249, see Figs.1) from Oudekraal, southwest of Heidelberg.  I commented then on the wisdom of describing a new species when “the recognition, estimation of taxonomic rank and circumscription of elements in Haworthia…” was so problematic.  The new species was said to resemble H. emelyae var. multifolia (Figs.2).  In respect of its distribution, I said it was closest to H. heidelbergensis at Heidelberg (Figs.3 JDV87/1) and as at Matjestoon (Fig.4 JDV87/3), and also to H. sublimpidula at Swellendam (now known to be H. floribunda var. major (Fig.5 MBB6859, taxonomically with little connection to H. rossouwii).  The implication was that it could have been taxonomically related to those elements in terms of geographic distribution.  I was still puzzled by the relationships of H. serrata when I wrote (New Haworthia Handbook :55, 1982) that collections by C.Burgers from the Coastal Limestones might throw more light on the matter (Fig.6 MBB6985 H. mirabilis var. calcarea).

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Volume 3, Chapter 13:- Haworthia IS confusing.

In a very interesting book by Stephen Gould entitled “Rock of Ages”, in which he propounds his principle of NOMA – non-overlapping magisteria.  This states that science and religion should not be confused nor mixed.

So this is not a confession of confusion – you do not confess to what is obvious.  It is an admission, and an admission can be construed as an apology.  But, as a rhetorical question, how can one apologize and expect forgiveness when one continues to walk the errant path?

I started to write about Haworthia to dispel confusion, and yet more than 40 years on, this confusion has not become any less.  The conclusion I have come to (and I wish it was a closure) is that the prime source of confusion is simply the human condition.  In mystic philosophy one can read… “Born in ignorance, we live in ignorance and we die in ignorance”.

I think that my interest in Haworthia stems from my conscious effort to dispel this primal confusion and find some of the order in my view of creation.  The classification of plants suggested just one small piece of my world which was available to me, and Haworthia as one group which no one else could explain to me.  What have I now learned and what contribution does this make to dispel confusion?

My courage to now say something more directly arises from a recent request by SANBI to write a synopsis of Haworthia for an E. Cape Flora.  I feel that I have done that fairly successfully.  The problem is now to produce a similar product for the SW Cape and this is considerably more difficult.

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Volume 5, Chapter 6:- Haworthia floribunda

Again this piece is written against the background of a detailed discussion in Haworthia UpdateVol. 2.   Again I am not able to say the situation is full comprehensible and neither do I want to encourage the daffy view that nature is just too much for us all.  It is really curious that this species is woven into the fabric of H. mirabilis and also into that of H. chloracantha, H. parksiana and H. variegata.  New finds have not clarified the picture so much as added another dimension to an extraordinary display.  Not that H. floribunda is a spectacular species.  In the field it can be extraordinarily cryptic and obscure while in cultivation it is an unlikely favourite.  I do not want to repeat what I have already written while I hope that this will not contradict that either.  H. floribunda seems to occupy a clear niche along the base of the mountains between Albertinia in the east and Swellendam in the west.  It occurs as discrete from any other species although hybrids with both H. retusa and H. mirabilis do occur.  South and west of Heidelberg it seems to lose its identity within H. mirabilis and then emerges briefly in a limited area near the Potberg in the southwest in a ‘mirabilis’ context as well as in H. variegata context.  At Klipfontein farm at the western end of the Potberg it seems to be recognizable in relatively the same form as the very original description.  But let us look at new information.

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Volume 5, Chapter 9:- More on H. floribunda and H. mirabilis

In a recent set of articles (published by the Haworthia Society as??) I wrote the following in connection with H. floribunda… “MBB7738 H. floribunda ‘major’. Swellendam:  These plants were in fact small when first collected and in cultivation grew so large that I coined the name ‘major’ for them.  They do still exist in a very small and disturbed area close to gum trees but curiously in moss free of leaf litter.  I did also find them a little further away in a more grassy area where they are/were more typically small and dark coloured.  I should note that I also recorded this ’dentata’-like version within the Bontebok Park close to where H. mirabilis occurs and I am still committed to again finding that population  in the light of this new material”.

In connection with H. mirabilis, I wrote…”The Dankbaar plants are small versions of this and of course tie up with both older and newer (MBB7704) records for the Bontebok National Park.   2. MBB7743 H. mirabilis. Bontebok Park: Having written that, we did in fact locate still another population and of course it looked different as the area where it occurs had been recently burned and being on a northwest aspect the plants were very exposed and even more cryptic than usual”.

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Volume 7, Chapter 1:- Haworthia retusa ‘nigra’ – Another grand finale.

I wonder.  I have written so many words purporting to be my last that my credibility here too must be under stress.  Two very recent articles of mine in Alsterworthia deal essentially with that issue, although they also cover the discovery of Haworthia mutica (Buffeljags) (= H. groenewaldii Breuer).  They do not cover my subsequent thoughts on actually reading the description of this new “species” by Breuer, Marx and Groenewald.  I hope that the present manuscript will explain why I reject this as a Latin binomial although anyone who is in the least familiar with my writing should already know.  Spurred on by that discovery, I instigated a search in another area of the Buffeljags valley adjoining the Bontebok Park accompanied by Jannie Groenewald who informed me of what he had found in still another area I had long wanted to explore.  So I instigated another search there too and again with Jannie.  A discussion of these new finds is submitted to Cactus and Succulent Journal where I trust it will be published.  The essence is already in Alsterworthia and this article is written to widen the readership, submit more pictures and maintain continuity with the 6 volumes of Haworthia Update that Harry Mays has been so conscientiously and determinedly publishing.  This is all writing that may not otherwise have seen the light of day.  I am personally extremely grateful for that as I have had a mania since writing my revision Haworthia Revisited and Update Vol. 1 (both Umdaus), to set the record straight and explore all the unknowns, or at least some of them.

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Volume 7, Chapter 6:- Field trip to Van Reenens Crest and Niekerkshek.

M B Bayer, PO Box 960, Kuilsriver 7579, RSA.

The objective was to explore some likely habitats previously observed at Van Reenens Crest and nearby.   We extended the scope to include further exploration for Haworthia mutica as I am still questioning the place of this species in the greater scheme of things.  Thus here are four sets of populations that I report on viz. H. mirabilis, H. retusa ‘nigra’, H. floribunda and H. mutica.  See maps Figs 1 and 2 for geographical position.

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Volume 7, Chapter 7:- More on Haworthia mirabilis and H. mutica from east of Bredasdorp.

More on Haworthia mirabilis and H. mutica from east of Bredasdorp.

M B Bayer, PO Box 960, Kuilsriver 7579, RSA

The area concerned is the long and wide contact zone between the Limestone stretching from Bredasdorp to Potberg, and the Bokkeveld shale north of that.  The soils and vegetation of the two areas are grossly different.  The limestones are agriculturally almost useless, while the shales are prime wheat and pasturage producing soils although relatively low yielding.  The vegetation of the shales is Renosterveld and there are very few patches left.  Large areas resemble ecological deserts with nothing of the original surface intact.  Here and there are shale banks and associated quartz outcrops and also some remnants of tertiary deposits that overlie the shale.  Under this deposit layer the shale has decomposed to kaolin and in places there are gravel sheets of fine quartz on white clay.  The skeletal nature of these remnants is the saving grace but it is unbelievable to what lengths farmers must have gone to make fields arable.  Enormous amounts of stone that have been carted away and dumped to make cultivated lands.  Sadly the stone is often dumped on exposed rock and prime Haworthia habitat.  The remnants are still under threat and a mindset that has developed in the road construction and maintenance arena is that roads must be clean and scraped fence to fence.  Similarly there are farmers who want every square inch under control and in subservience to their production needs.  Dense vegetation is abhorred and burnt to control predation of sheep by jackal and lynx.  Vegetation adjoining crops is treated with weedkiller to minimize crop contamination.  Crops are also grown in conjunction with animal production.  When crops are in, the animals are on fallow land and on whatever is left of natural vegetation.   It is the harsh reality of conservation.

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Still another view of Haworthia retusa and Haworthia mirabilis

I recently wrote an essay on the situation between Haworthia retusa and Haworthia mirabilis at Komserante east of Riversdale.  The essay was entitled “My view of names” and is posted on the HaworthiaUpdates.org web site.  Etwin Aslander posted some pictures from what he called Kruisrivier.  These caught my eye because they did not look like the plants I know from a place of the same name.  My known population is JDV95/62 and generally these plants have the dark colour and rough surface texture of H. mirabilis.  The issue is that they are spring flowering whereas H. mirabilis is generally considered and observed to be late summer flowering.  Etwin indicated to me where he had found his plants and I duly went to look.

In the process I incidentally called on a well known H. retusa population at the Skietbaan locality south of Riversdale.  There has been a dramatic turnabout in the appearances of these plants since I last looked there 2 years ago.  Whereas there were then huge clones well above ground level, the plants were now again smaller and drawn into the ground.  I experienced this dramatic shift in plant appearances just west of the Frehse Reserve many years ago when there were giant size plants as opposed to my first visit when the plants were really small and withdrawn.

Kobus accompanied Daphne and I to Kruisrivier where the owners Wilhelm and Mandi Zietsman were extremely helpful. They told us also of a neighbor, Gert van Rensburg, who had also seen the same plants on his farm to the west. Mandi accompanied us on a jaunt to find that farmer and failing that we explored north of the original Kruisrivier locality. There we found another population of plants as well as H. floribunda (see Set 1 MBB7998). These two species H. retusa and H. floribunda were occupying different habitat and spaced about 100m apart. The H. floribunda was numerous and rather smooth leaved as well as paler green in colour than I expect from that species. The H. retusa-like plants were much smoother in surface texture than the original known population and they were in bud (see Set 2 MBB7999). We went back to the older population just to confirm that they were in bud too as we expected. Just so and the buds were just emerging from the rosettes. The plants were generally smaller than they were at a previous visit (see set 3 JDV95/62).

We parted company with Mandi Zietsman, and went off westwards intended to explore the Klein Kruisrivier area that seemed to better fit Etwin’s site indicator.  By good fortune we ran into Gert van Rensburg of Wegwysersrivier. He eyed us very suspiciously indeed and obviously very reluctant to show anyone the plants. However, he very kindly relented, took us to the spot and left us to freely photograph and explore (see set 4 MBB8000). The plants can be described as midway between the generally rougher surfaces of JDV95-62 and the smooth surfaces of MBB7999. What was more dramatic is that there were six flower spikes so that flowering is possible as early as July 6th.

We returned via another route regretting leaving distant habitat unexplored.  But we did find another population of H. floribunda, a little more toothed and perhaps brighter green than at Kruisrivier.

I also note that I long ago confirmed Smith’s record for H. retusa ‘turgida’ at Klein Kruisrivier in the upper Wegwysersrivier Gorge. This is the small spinose proliferous version known elsewhere from the Langeberg Mts.

Digesting this new information is a bit difficult in view of the very opposed views of what names mean and how they should be applied. Taking all the populations that I have explored and written about, my perspective is further to a view expressed in Haworthia Update 7.  This is that H. retusa and H. mirabilis are uncomfortably close. The only thing that appears to separate them is the yellowish green and smooth tendency in H. retusa and the darkish green and surface rough tendency in H. mirabilis. Further to that is of course the question of spring flowering versus late summer flowering. But I have already reported several case of hybridization across this divide as well as the Komserante situation. Here we now have plants in three populations that occupy middle ground and one of these populations has a significant degree of a winter flowering capacity. The identification should perhaps utilize the chemical equilibrium symbol. This is not quite it “↔” as the better symbol comprises halved arrows pointing in opposite directions.

I wish to add that in the case of plants I attribute to H. ‘turgida’ at Towerlands, I commented on the very real possibility of a close connection to H. emelyae.  There is also evidence for this elsewhere. I use the name ‘turgida’ like this because of the uncertainty of it really being H. retusa var. turgida or perhaps H.  pygmaea.

My experience in other situations viz. H. limifolia, H. herbacea/H. reticulata, H. arachnoidea/H. mucronata, H. cymbiformis/H. cooperi, Kiewietsvlakte etc. all suggests to me that the view of species is grossly distorted in the splitter direction. It is clear to me, if to no one else, that H. retusa and H. mirabilis form a very cohesive entity with ramifying oddities the length and breadth of the distribution range. I do not cover this issue here, but there is the added complication of the involvement of H. floribunda. It seems to be very discrete in most places, whereas at others it seems to get lost mainly (only?) in H. mirabilis. This may be because the introgression is favoured by the same flowering season. H. retusa and H. mirabilis are drifted apart by the difference in flowering season but it is by no means anything more than a general observation.

I have added the images of the available flowers as well as that of a bud to show the flared fishtail bud-tip that the southern Cape species tend to have. The flowers are variable and it is difficult to make a statement that characterizes them i.e. no composite image forms.

Acknowledgement: I would like to acknowledge Etwin Aslander’s input. Wilhelm and Mandi Zietsman were extremely helpful. Gert van Rensburg was surprisingly well informed about the plants too and very generous in his attitude to us. Part of the pleasure of field work is meeting people like this.

Set 1. MBB7998 H. floribunda Kruisrivier

Set 2. MBB7999 H. retusa Kruisrivier

Set 3. JDV92/65 H. retusa Kruisrivier

Set 4. MBB8000 H. retusa Wegwyserivier

MBB8000 flower faces

MBB8000 flower profiles

MBB8000 flower bud

8000 H. retusa, Wegwysersrivier. Flower bud.

Addendum: To demonstrate the problem of similar looking plants that appear in different populations, I take 3 plants from the original Kruisrivier population (JDV92/65) see figs 1 to 3.  Fig. 1 is obviously a mirabiloid plant and if this population flowered in late summer it would probably be identified as H. mirabilis. The figs 2 and 3 are more retusoid. I leave out plants from the newer Kruisrivier population (MBB7999) because none of the plants have the rougher mirabiloid leaf surfaces.  I add a Wegwysersrivier (fig. 4 MBB8000) plant that is again mirabiloid and like Fig. 1 except that it appears to be a spring flowering population with a significant number of plants in flower in early July.  From there I take a plant from Komserante (MBB7779) that flowers in late summer but is apparently generally hybrid with H. retusa.  Moving eastwards from Riversdale and impinging on H. mirabilis splendens, I show a plant MBB7762 from Platkop (fig. 6) where both H. mirabilis and H. retusa occur with occasional hybrids.  Fig. 7 is MBB7818 H. mirabilis Windsor SE Riversdale, where the plants frequently have a frosted appearance because of minute surface spines.

There is a significant geographic jump with fig. 8 MBB7850 H. emelyae north of the Langeberg at Aasvoelvallei. This is a population that I have noted elsewhere that highlights the probable relationship of H. emelyae with the H. retusa turgida and pymaeaoid elements from Herbertsdale eastwards. Fig. 9 is a plant of MBB6666 Tradouw Pass that I recognize as a hybrid population H. mirabilisXretusa.  Inland from there are several populations, MBB7899 is H. mirabilis, Heuningklip (fig. 10) and MBB7896 H. retusa nigra also Heuningklip (fig. 11).  East of that are three populations of H. mirabilis, MBB7912 and MBB7913 Rietkuil and MBB7919 Van Reenens Crest (figs 12 to 14).

As only single plant comparisons, it seems fairly safe to say that, bar flowering time and figs 2 and 3, they are all similar. However, the variability in each of these populations is great and this has been reported elsewhere in the Update volumes. If one had to now take figs 2 and 3 and look for similarities in other populations, it would be very easy to demonstrate a complete gradation from what could be construed as typical H. mirabilis through to typical H. retusa through a large array of populations.

A sequel…Still another view of Haworthia retusa and Haworthia mirabilis.

It has long been my contention that there is no separation between Haworthia retusa and Haworthia turgida. It is one very variable system viz H. retusa, with a larger fairly non-proliferous plants tending to level areas and then smaller proliferous plants on steeper habitats. There is huge variability among members of any one population and of course much more between populations. Over and above this is the relationship of this apparently one single system, with H. mirabilis that is probably even more complex and varied. If one takes all the known populations and variants into consideration it become necessary to ask if H. retusa and H. mirabilis are also not just elements of one system , and one species. If all the considerations are summed and referral is made to vegetation and speciation drivers; what constitutes an area of endemism, then I am sure the answer will be “Yes”! What seems to have happened is a natural sequence. As sampling has progressed so has there been recognition of differences. The logical outcome is that sampling progression should lead to understanding and synthesis by reduction. Unfortunately there will be diehards that stay with the differences syndrome and cannot see the similarities.

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Bontebok Park Haworthia floribunda and SW Klipport Haworthia mirabilis

I was at Bontebok Park south of Swellendam this week specifically to get another look at Haworthia floribunda there and why it is so different. On the way I did some exploring at Stormsvlei about 25km west of Swellendam where I know H. mutica Klipport in a shale environment, and a very odd H. mirabilis growing on a small patch of manganic conglomerate. But going south onto the northern slopes of the Bromberg we found three populations of H. mirabilis in sandstone that are again “different” in the sense that “H. groenewaldii” could be different from H. mutica. This is just a local geological phenomenon and fully sequential with H. mirabilis to all compass directions. If you extrapolate this to Swellendam you have to conclude that the Swellendam mix of H. floribunda, H. marginata, H. minima, H. floribunda, H. mutica and H. retusa is the way it is because of the unusual geology of the area. The Bontebok Park is a relatively massive area of tertiary gravel of mostly river origin and derived from Table Mountain Sandstone. Tertiary gravels east and south are derived from silcrete and ferricrete. I do not know the detail of the mineralogy but it most definitely forms the basis of the soils, vegetation and habitat across the Southern Cape. I specifically looked at H. marginata in the park and see that it was in seed i.e. September flowering with massive capsules and seed. Now if Marx can persuade someone that this is a different species, I accept that I am a monkey’s uncle and that the differences in H. marginata elsewhere e.g. Drew, Bredasdorp and Heidelberg or Riversdale, mean there are several similar species. Oh, I forget – that means H. floribunda would also be several species, and so is H. minima. But then H. mutica is of course several species and H. retusa several dozen. H. mirabilis several hundred.

This is 8017 from the Bontebok Park Swellendam. In some circles I am expected to get excited and see this as something new. In the context of the Haworthia in the wider area, this is a variant of H. floribunda. In my flower report it is evident that there is not much difference between the flowers or flowering time of this species and H. mirabilis. It hybridizes with H. retusa, H. retusa (turgida), and H. pygmaea despite differences in flowering time, and also with H. mirabilis. There are populations that I think are an older product of such hybridization (or failure to have ever separated).

Typical – an over-used comment. A white small glasss ball is found and named “Marble alba”. Then a red one is found and named “Marble rosea”. Then several other colours turn up and “rosea” is lumped under “Marble alba” as a variety. Automativally all the others become “Marble alba var alba” if they are not specifically named or not put under “rosea”. If “rosea” had started as “Marble alba var rosea”, there would automatically have been a “var alba”. All other glass marbles known and unknown would have been “var alba” even if no another white marble ever turned up. A type just establishes a name and the best way to determine how that name is used by an author is by ALL the illustrations and pictures he/she notes. A type that establishes a name may be an oddity or a single variant that does not easily establish a use. The advice handed to me by a group of taxonomists in 1972 was that it would be best to scrap all the old Haworthia names and start again from scratch. The group was led by Prof Schelpe, one of the few professors who as a taxonomist headed the department. He had explained this view in a published article in respect of Gasteria and why he rejected the idea of personally revising the genus. He had no solution for types and names that could not be directly linked to a set of herbarium specimens or similar evidence. Now substitute H. mirabilis for marbles alba and where the contrast of white and red is absent.


Just what is the type form of H. mirabilis and what constitutes H. magnifica? That is the subject of my question about the way in which the typical variety is recognised. There are 4 populations of H. mirabilis in the Park and many to west, east and south. Imagining that there is also a “maraisii” is just crackpot even more so to say “magnifica”. There is quite definitely one system that you can see from many populations and that system inter-twines with two others also on the basis of many populations. At this stage of the available information on these populations there are a lot less species – see also the article Haworthia flowers – some comments as a character source published in Haworthia Updates Vol. 8 by Alsterworthia International. I also started off thinking that there was an H. maraisii and an H. magnifica but changed my mind quite early. In the last ten years I have come to see that both they and H. heidelbergensis are nothing but parts of one system viz H. mirabilis. Ask the authors who think otherwise to present some clear evidence based on good random sampling and statistics. See the Haworthia Updates Vol. 4 article Some variation in Haworthia mirabilis var. sublineata by Loucka and Bayer on the stats of H. mirabilis (sublineata).


Klipport is a farm a bit off the beaten track on the north side of the Bromberg low range.  Bromberg is the eastern end of the Riviersonderend Mountains and is cut off from them by the Riviersonderend River that changes direction to the north to do so and then east again to join the Breede River.  Bokkeveld shale is strata-wise above the sandstone of this mountain range and a small amount of shale is present here on the south bank of the river.  At Klipport it is a narrow sloping stretch of about 500m long and about 75m wide with white gravel and clays.  The vegetation it totally different to the grassy fry Fynbos and renosterveld of the Bromberg and has karoid succulent vegetation with the endemic Gibbaeum esterhuysdeniae and a Brianhuntleya species.  The site is also home to a smoothish form of Haworthia pumila, and also to a range of  H. mutica variants that might have a name attached by now.  Another very interesting species there is Drosanthemum micans. This species has an extraordinary range of variation that parallels that of Haworthia and at Klipport is moving to another face as D. lavisii.  It would be very instructive if other Haworthia taxonomists could, or would, take note of this kind of parallel and recognize that there are significant clues to how Haworthia species and their variations are part of a larger pattern.

This small shaly area has a very patchy distribution of the species on it with patches of a restioid and Pteronia.  Through some weird quirk a German immigrant ploughed up a vast area of very marginal virginal  land and planted gums and pines that after 30 years are still far from harvestable.  I doubt if they will ever yield anything.  This happened under the eyes of Nature Conservation and the Dept of Agriculture that is supposed to manage land use.  The area on the river itself was paradoxically a source of timber in the early Cape days and is now severely infested with exotic gum and wattle.  It is this riverine growth that sustains the timber enterprise of the adjoining farm Vaandrigsdrift.  Not far away between the shale and the sandstone is a manganese deposit that is now being mined.  At the end of this deposit is a tiny set of large conglomerate-like rocks with a variant of H. mirabilis.  This species also occurs as an interesting ecotype a short way further east where the shale is less transformed along the sandstone interface.  In fact I do not know exactly what it it is that has driven this decay of Bokkeveld shale to kaolinic and bentonitic clays where it has been covered with Tertiary marine deposit at some stage in geological history.  Whatever it was, is certainly significant with respect to island-like habitats and “conserved” vegetation remnants.

MBB8028 H. mirabilis SW Klipport

MBB8030 H. mirabilis SW Klipport

MBB8031 H. mirabilis SW Klipport

The Haworthia species of the Bontebok National Park

M. B. Bayer (MSc), Kleinbegin Farm, Kuilsriver, South Africa
Mrs Carly Cowell (MSc), Regional Ecologist, Cape Research Centre, Conservation Services, South African National Parks, Cape Town, South Africa.

Objective:  The significance of the Park occurrences.
The occurrence of members of three aloid “genera” (the three sub-genera of the genus Haworthia could indeed be genera) and the absence of any other member of the Aloids (bar the ubiquitous Aloe ferox) must surely be indicative of the driving forces that determine the flora of the Park.  This also must surely help establish the significance of the park as a conservancy of considerable merit.  The complex interaction of the species enhances even that.  The purpose of this report is to examine more closely the variation and nature of a small segment of the Park flora, and demonstrate how much more can be done.     

Note: This report has several constraints.  Firstly is the situation in which there is no formal general definition and hence understanding of what a plant species is.  Secondly there is the generally understood view that there is an evolutionary process at work by which organisms evolve from a common distant origin by genetic mutation and adaptation.  Thirdly there are serious flaws in the classification of the Aloid genera.  Several essays dealing with these issues by DNA sequencing are weak because they rest on those flaws and consequently do not address some serious questions of relationships that the results pose.  Fourthly of course is the reality that the knowledge or intellectual capacity to overcome these deficiencies may be absent.  Thus the report is written in the context of all the publications as the original genus revision (Haworthia Revisited, Bayer; Umdaus, 1999) and others available on the internet (HaworthiaUpdates.org).

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Mystery – part 7, Floribunda spots

19. 2019.5.23 – On more than one occasion some collector or other has sought retreat from an argument about species to some purported botanical expert (i.e. someone with a botany qualification) to support their wild guesses and assumptions about names. Too often such persons simply assume they know more about classification than any botanists might. Here are two plants of H. floribunda in a population that differ in having these strange white spots in the leaves. According to the H. groenewaldii argument it must surely be a new species. What about all the other plants in the population? Far more significant is that these plants are in a floribunda population not far from where “H. groenewaldii” (= H. mutica) occurs, where occasional plants have significant leaf spotting too. H. floribunda is very closely entangled with the greater retusoid complex where groenewaldii is secondary to the mutica element in that complex. Those spots must have a significant connection.

Mystery – part 10, Floribunda SW Tradouw

34. 2019.6.8 – Traveling west to SW Tradouw there is a habitat just like those that house mirabiloids and retusoids. Yet here there is H. floribunda and Aoe brevifolia in separate discrete small areas in an area stretching about 300m. There is Aloe arborescens that likes the creted upper zone of the old terrace and Aloe ferox that hangs around on usually the edges of the exposed and bare clay. Why no mirabil/retus-oids?

Mystery – part 12, How do we know anything?

40. 2019.6.13 – How does one know anything? Why I ask is because I have so often heard strong opinions based on a great degree of ignorance. The revision process in plant classification is built on the accumulation of information. At one stage all known Haworthias were 5 small Aloe species. It has been pretty much chaos ever since. There are many total imponderables within Haworthia even in its purest form i.e. with Haworthiopsis and Tulista excluded. While it is difficult enough to arrive at a reasonable guess as to what a population may be, it is very much more difficult to explain an own informed guess to someone convinced of something else on the basis of near nothing. Can one explain to a frog in a pond that has not even seen the other side of it, what the ocean is like? At the same time one should not expect the ignorant to take a blind leap of faith. H. groenewaldii as H. mutica, needs to be seen in this context and there is a lot of peripheral stuff that needs to be explained. I did not think H. floribunda was going to be so central to my story, but it is. It occurs across the range of the retusoids from the Gouritz River in the east to west of the Breede River in the south. But it gets lost among the mirabiloids along a east/west line between Riversdale and Swellendam. What it does at Swellendam is extraordinary. Floribunda is a rather inconspicuous small plant characterised by a flattened leaf and rounded leaf-tip. It is this character that seems to be infused into the mirabiloid/retusoids suggesting that H. floribunda itself may be essential to that group. BUT it has its own complications in that it can be seen to be linked to H. variegata, H. parksiana and H. chlorocantha. How does one know that? It is an opinion probably arising solely from seeing so many things in the field that suggest this. Judging from all my pictures, its chief character seems to be that it is non-photogenic. It does incline to be well drawn into the soil with at least half the leaves below soil surface. My pictures are appalling but here are some to give an idea of what “floribunda” may look like, before I show what it is like at Swellendam.

Some of the weak points emerging in my story…

1. Starting point. Perhaps I should have said a lot more. A great deal more. I had a plant from N Bredasdorp that was H. mutica by my identification, and another from N Mossel Bay as H. pygmaea. They were absolutely identical except for the colour of the floral bracts. And I had B/W pictures from G.G.Smith’s draft “monograph” of plants from Buffeljags River Swellendam, and from Kransriviermond Heidelberg that Smith had labelled H. mutica. These also looked nearly identical.

2. Missing pictures. I have no decent pictorial record of my field activity until I got a digital camera about 12 years ago. So there are gaps in the photographic record.

3. Too much to digest. I have about 300 populations relevant to the story with an average of about 10 pictures/population plus the whole historical record. I can’t throw one out without feeling my story is diminished. How does one transmit the combined picture of all these images to anyone else when some of it is forgotten or incorrectly memorised?

4. Inadequate flowering time data.

5. Inadequate understanding of the geological facts and the time scales involved.

6. I suspect there may be more.

Mystery – part 15, Swellendam H. floribunda

43. 2019.6.17 – Nearer Swellendam to the north west is where there is a bigger version of floribunda similar to this picture. It is unusual because of its pointed leaves. When first found I thought they may be in fact variegata. That seemed very improbable at the time, but since then variegata has appeared at several localities west of the Breede River. It it is otherwise limited to the limestones south of Albertina and west of the Goukou River. So this is an indirect link between the two species that gets very more involved in the south. What is important in the implication of geographical position and physical similarities.

44. 2019.6.18 – Within Swellendam along the highway there is a little patch where floribunda occurs as the more characteristic small plant deeply withdrawn into the soil. Dark coloured and with the leaf tips barely sticking out of the moss and lichen growing on exposed weathered shale.

45. 2019.7.2 – A short way down the road is this monstrous green form of what cannot be anything else but a variant of floribunda. The big question I suppose is “how do you conclude that?” No! You tell me how you can possibly think it’s anything else. It comes from a familiarity with the field, familiarity of what else goes on around Swellendam, familiarity with variability in nature, a bit of academic learning, what haworthias do generally and then just plain common sense.

46. 2019.7.3 – A few kilometers east of Swellendam there is this population of green floribunda while another kilometer east returns the smaller dark more familiar form. This strange behaviour of one species is not peculiar to that species. It simply demonstrates that a tiny shred of circumspection is needed before wild declarations of a new binomial identity.

47. 2019.7.4 – In the Bontebok National park, less than a kilometre away from the green and the ordinary floribundas virtually within Swellendam is this little green form. There are also at least 6 populations of the smaller heidelbergensisoid mirabilis – all different from each other. I surmise that this may be of mixed origin – avoiding the term hybridization that implies pre-existing separate species. I suggest outcome from a common gene pool rather than this simplistic dependence on an even more totally speculative guess.

48. 2019.7.5 – Very many years ago I did see the small floribunda within the Bontebok Park but it was extremely cryptic and I was not able to find it again. But just east of the park is this. What is curious is that it is the second of a series of 5 “species”, almost contiguous populations going south to north, each occupying their own space in a near uniform environment. Two of those populations are Tulista marginata and T. minima that vary in some degree from their own species norm and even flower much earlier than they should be expected to. Added to that is the fact that now there are clearly hybrids. So we have a situation where we have two species that may have never truly separated, interacting again? Similar situations exist throughout the Haworthia domain. And I have yet not told half the known floribunda story either.

2019.7.6 – In carrying on about H. floribunda (that can be further shown to interact with H. variegata, H. chloracantha AND H. parksiana) it may be thought I have lost track of the prime issue. Not so. The gist of the story is that there are two main elements viz retusoid and mirabiloid. This gene pool disgorges elements that can be labelled H. pygmaea, H. retusa and H. emelyae in the east, and H. mutica, H. retusa and H. mirabilis in the west. H. floribunda simply demands attention by its involvement and by what it does in its own right. This brings me to something else. I have a near polymath friend who does top-level seriously academic work in major plant families. This source mentions the promise of next generation sequencing. In trying to understand the technology all I could really grasp was this end statement … “The only thing slowing us down now is the interpretation of results.” At the same time I was pondering the phyllogram for the aloid sequencing I was unhappily involved in (two major attempts). Especially about some peculiar relationships expressed in that phyllogram. It is tough having a small brain when such complex issues need scrutiny and question. But those peculiar relationships (I hesitate to point directly at them now because it means many words and browsing slowly through many files for which I lack patience), require to make me say emphatically … ”A two dimensional array can definitely not illustrate what is a minimally three-dimensional space/time product (species)”. So my contribution is, that while the interpretation of the results rests on a two-dimensional phyllogram, the result will never be worth what it should be.

Mystery – part 40, Albertinia 5

112. 2020.03.26 – The trickster – H. floribunda. This is the Draaihoek Albertinia site where I was not sure (ca 1970) if it was floribunda or chloracantha. I went back to check ca 2001). The place was grazed and trampled to a frazzle – sheep and/or ostriches. I found a few specimens right at the far end. They pass for floribunda and especially if you recognise that floribunda has a good many faces. The last picture is from west looking east – so this is the top rocky edge of a south facing drop. The water is the Valse River. Dekenahii is across the way.

So in these very distressing times, lets see where we go next.

113. 2020.03.26 – This is H. chloracantha from east of Tweekuile along the Valse River north Albertinia, so also further east from Draaihoek. A small dense patch of plants under bush at the upper end of a south facing slope – escaping full exposure to sunlight. A few leaves show the round leaf tip of floribunda but the plants are also much more proliferous than I have ever seen in that ‘species’. It is very useful to consider all the variants in this complex to see how and why I arrive at my opinions on their classification. This is not a glamour complex but as systems they work in exactly the same way. I really regret not having good pictures and especially since I first saw this species at Great Brak in 1969.

114. 2020.03.27 – Ouvloere is east of the previous as that is from Tweekuile but the plants are really odd. Unlike the previous these plants are in and under low ground hugging plants at the top of a slope. This must be about 8km west of the Gouritz River.

How would you know this is H. floribunda?

The answer to … How would you know this is H. floribunda is because I say so? So please forgive my apparent arrogance. I would dearly love to show you all the plants and populations that lead to this conclusion because you would surely be able to then make that decision for yourself. These two pictures are also floribunda from very near to ‘splendens’ at Dekriet (Snymanskraal) west of Albertinia. A strange habitat where the rocky ferricrete is exposed but with a collapsed eroded depression in which the plants grow around the edges. When this time of tribulation is over, I hope to go back and get habitat pictures. Reminiscent of parksiana?.

115. 2020.03.30 – The Valse Rivier joins the Gourits at Die Eiland where there is now H. chloracantha and eastwards. It supplants floribunda entirely – or is it truly just the same species? As a serious aside – we may get a total 3-day Covid-19 lockdown of all internet and tele-communication in the next 7 days. Keep calm, keep safe.

116. 2020.03.30 – The last post was of plants from N Die Eiland (Buisplaas). From the top edge of a west facing shale cliff. These are also Buisplaas but from a low north facing slope of alluvium. I never imagined chloracantha could be so abundant and so resistant to the impact of habitat. But it becomes one of the most remarkable of the species on closer scrutiny.

The great awakening will be when one can truthfully and openly write about, discuss, the reality of basic life forms i.e. species. When we are free of the prejudices, beliefs and misconceptions of science as practiced and religions as preached. The great awakening will be when one can truthfully and openly write about, discuss, the reality of basic life forms i.e. species. When we are free of the prejudices, beliefs and misconceptions of science as practiced and religions as preached.

Mystery – part 42, Albertinia 7

122. 2020.04.07 – Like with the present pandemic we are coming to something difficult to comprehend. I went to Botlierskop, Rooiheuwel farm, north of Klein Brakrivier hoping to see a slender long-leaved form of Haworthia chloracantha (a JDV record). Instead I came across this population of rather stubby plants. Keep this population in view – two close populations to follow and then an issue of proximities!

Also on a rock slab about 70 meters away. Is this still chloracantha or is it parksiana?

Frantisek Vesely – We saw the similar situation – on slope there was chloracantha (+ hybrids), on flat a few dozens meters away there was parksiana and its hybrids with chloracantha – not difficult to recognize what happened there as they were so close and mixed up but on one spot most of them were chloracantha-like and the other spot were more parksiana-like plants.

600M away there is a population of uniform parksiana. But how can we say hybrids for the previous? How long have these populations been in existence? Is transfer of pollen a problem and over what distance? There seem to me to be a host of unanswerable questions in general about hybridization as an explanation for variability. It is linked to the more general question of co-occurrence – of mixing or non-mixing of species. Ring clines? Also something we should really try to document – i.e. the proximity of the various species to one another. Add to that the occurrence of hybrids.

123. 2020.04.09 – This population, east of Riversdale, is an aspect that really calls for attention – proximity of kinds (species) and hybridization. At this locality there is H. retusa and H. floribunda in contiguous/adjunct/closely neighbouring populations. Among the floribundas there is a single putative hybrid? How often does this happen and why are kinds (species) so seldom growing together? When is an entire population comprised of hybrids? What comes in between? Let me just add that I see very little in the taxonomic literature dealing with the problems of variability that exist in many genera other than Haworthia. It is simply obscured.

I am quite aware that my comments are often cryptic and often deliberately so. As a society we are very misled and never more so than in respect of the present pandemic. I do not see how we can put that aside and think that we can at the same time depend on our collective intelligence to solve and understand anything else e.g. taxonomy of Haworthia. It is a conscious creation and that consciousness has to be lifted to a level that we see things for what they really are. Hybridity is at the root of species definition and as such a critical step to recognising species. At the same time geographical location is also critical. To to think anything can be explained while there is a paranoia about revealing it, is wishful thinking.

2020.04.12 – There is a problem with classification where priority creates difficulty. The name Haworthia retusa has nomenclatural priority over the name turgida, when in actual fact the turgida form is the main one and retusa is a variant of that. It is much easier to then understand, describe and explain the idea that retusa becomes mutica in the west, retusa and mirabilis become pygmaea in the east, while turgida and mirabilis become emelyae in the Karoo. That might be where I should now leave things. There are a hoard of complexities that just get lost in the needs and activities of the majority who have no need of much more than a lot of desiderata.