Haworthia mirabilis Haworth. (1977)

Printed in Excelsa 7::37 (1977).

Haworthia mirabilis was described by Haworth in 1804 from plants said to have been brought to England by the collector Francis Masson.  It could thus have originated from practically anywhere in the southern and south-western Cape.  Haworth referred to this species as the ‘rough cushion cushion’, and it was characterised by having retuse-deltoid leaves with ciliate-spinose margins and keels, the leaves being smooth on the face and the back surfaces almost tubercled and indistinctly reticulate.  There is no extant type specimen and only the brief original description, and illustrations in Curtis’ Botanical Magazine (t 1354, 1811) and in Salm-Dyck’s Aloe Monograph (s9, t 1, 1836-49) serve to identify and typify the species.

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A Story of Haworthia Nitidula v. Poell. ( = H. mirabilis Haw.) (1980)

Previously published Cact S.Jl 52.1 1980
M. B. Bayer, Karoo Botanic Garden, National Botanic Gardens of South Africa

Haworthia nitidula was described by von Poellnitz in Desert Plant Life (11:192, 1939) from plants collected by Major H. Venter.  Venter was very generous with his localities and like most of his others, this no. 15 was also simply cited… “in the environs of Worcester, Swellendam, Caledon and Bredasdorp”.  This is an ideal example for demonstrating the problems of identification of haworthias and especially in the section Retusae Haworth.  J.R.Brown illustrated H. nitidula in the Cactus and Succulent Journal (18:89, 1946) but apart from this and the original illustration accompanying the description, the plant has not figured in the succulent literature.  In G.G.Smith’s records, the species and nine varieties are distinguished.  The interesting thing is that these varieties are drawn from three geographically separated species.  The object of this article is to present Smith’s photographs and notes of his “varieties” and discuss their actual position as they relate to distribution.

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Haworthia Revisited – 21. Haworthia mirabilis

21. Haworthia mirabilis Haw., Syn.Pl Succ. :95(1812).  Bayer :136(75).  Bayer :47(1982).  Bayer, Excelsa 7:37(1977).  pp. Scott :116(1985).  Aloe mirabilis Haw., Trans.Linn.Soc. 7:9(1804).  Ker-G., Curtis’ Bot.Mag. t1354(1811).  Type: Cape, Masson.  Not preserved.  Neotype (designated here): Icon t1354, Curtis’ Bot.Mag.:  H. mundula Smith, JS.Afr.Bot. 12:8(1946).  H. mirabilis ssp. mundula (Smith) Bayer :139(1976).  Bayer :47(1982).  Type: CAPE‑3419 (Caledon): Mierkraal, Bredasdorp (‑DB), M. Otzen 10 in Smith 5479 (NBG).

mirabilis: wonderful.

Rosette stemless, proliferous, to 7cm φ.  Leaves 10-15, retused, 3-4cm X 1,5cm, markedly retused, acute above, face translucent and lined, dark green, with marginal spines turning reddish in the sun.  Inflorescence slender.  Flowers narrow, elongate, biarcuate bud, upper lobes pinched at tips.

1982 – A full account of H. mirabilis is given in Excelsa (Bayer, 1977).  It is intimately associated with H. magnifica but the nature of the relationship is not fully understood.  The species grow near together at Stormsvlei and an intermediate population occurs a few miles to the south.  The species also approach one another near the Potberg at the mouth of the Breede River, at Bredasdorp and, unconfirmed, in the area east of Drew.  The initial distinction was that H. mirabilis (as H. triebnriana) was smooth on the leaf faces while H. magnifica was not.  H. mirabilis is generally a larger plant, and with more translucence in the leaves than H. magnifica.  The flower is a little larger and generally brown‑veined.  Several names such as H. willowmorensis, H. triebneriana, and H. rossouwii are placed under H. mirabilis on rather speculative grounds.  The synonymy thus indicates a very variable species and this is in fact so.  There are several places, notably at Bredasdorp and Napier, where ecological differences have resulted in forms very different from one another.  At Napier the differences are of such an order that the subspecies badia is recognised.  At Greyton, a form high in the mountains, with the typical flower of H. mirabilis, occurs.  For the present it is regarded as a variant of H. mirabilis.  There are also variants in the limestone formations of the coastal belt.  The subspecies mundula is a very proliferous variant south‑west of Bredasdorp.  It is possible that H. magnifica var. paradoxa belongs with H. mirabilis (see H. magnifica) but the coastal area has not been fully explored so that a good decision is not yet possible.

1999 – The typification of this species is obvious although Haworth in 1812 does not cite the Botanical Magazine illustration.  He does cite the preceding t.1353, Aloe recurva under Haworthia recurva, so this is quite an extraordinary oversight.  There is an illustration in the Kew library apparently labelled H. mirabilis which Scott regards as illustrating this species.  The illustration is almost identical to t.1353 and is of that species viz. H. recurva Haw. rather than of H. mirabilis.   The illustration is of a trifarious plant and, despite the annotation ‘mirabilis, ‘there can be no question of any confusion between this and the description of H. mirabilis which reads ‘quinquefarius’.  The other points are that 1. Ker-Gawler obtained his plants from Haworth and acknowledges this source; 2. Haworth refers to its singularity and ‘productions of art’; 3. Haworth places it between H. margaritifera and H. translucens(?).

This has been an old problem in Haworthia – the proliferation of names without the first establishment of the application of the old.  The recognition of the correct application of the species name requires some additional modification to the structure of the species.  While citing the wrongly labelled Kew illustration, Scott also omits mention of the Ker-Gawler illustration.  In addition to this he appears to have identified several collection of H. maraisii as H. mirabilis which is also apparent from his distribution map.  These two species do not co-occur and yet they seem to be discrete.  Two populations are known which appear to be interactions of the two elements.

a.var. mirabilis.
It is clear that H. mirabilis had to have some application and this has previously been found in terms of a host of varieties.  In retrospect it is apparent that the only variety that satisfies the requirements of the species as originally described is H. mundula of Smith, transferred only to H. mirabilis as a subspecies in 1976.  It is a problem of the nomenclatural system that the species may be described from a non-representative element, as has happened here where only one deviant population is concerned.  The specimen nominated as the epitype by Breuer and Metzing is again unfortunate because this is the variant beukmannii.

Distribution: CAPE‑3419 (Caledon): Mierkraal, Bredasdorp (‑DB), M. Otzen 10 in Smith 5479 (NBG), Smith 3951, 5364, 5612 (NBG).

Inadequately located: ex hort, Malherbe in NBG303/60.

b.var. badia (V.Poelln.) Bayer comb.nov. 
H. badia V.Poelln., Kakteenkunde 7:76(1938).  Haworthia mirabilis subsp. badia (V.Poelln.) Bayer :101(1976).  Bayer, Excelsa 7:42(1977).  Bayer :47(1982).  Type: Cape, Napier, G.J. Payne in Triebn. 1058.  Not preserved.  Lectotype (B&M): icon, Kakteenk. en Kakteenfr. :76(1938).

badia: reddish brown.

This is a robust, slowly proliferous variety growing in sandstone derived depauperate clay, in among pebbles and low-growing fynbos.  The leaves are quite attenuate and develop a very deep shiny brown colour in the sun.  Unfortunately most of its rather unique habitat has been destroyed by quarrying activity and invasion by alien vegetation.

Distribution: 3419 (Napier): Napier (‑BD), I. Williams 616 (NBG), Payne in PRE 34870, Smith 3239, 3269, 5207, 5480 (NBG), Bayer in KG628/69, Rossouw in NBG2095/37 (BOL); 3km Napier to Caledon (-BD), Scott 2207 (PRE).

c.var. beukmannii (V.Poelln.) Bayer comb.nov. 
H. emelyae var. beukmannii V.Poelln., Feddes Repert.Spec.Nov. 49:29(1940).  Type: Cape, Caledon, C. Beukman.  Not preserved.  Lectotype (B&M): icon (B). Epitype (designated here): CAPE‑3419 (Caledon): Skuitsberg (‑BA), Smith 3969 (NBG).

beukmannii: for C. Beukman.

This is a very robust form with strongly retused leaves and spined margins.

Distribution: CAPE‑3419 (Caledon): Skuitsberg (‑BA), Smith 3969, 3258, 3832, 5184, 5646 (NBG), Fourcade 41, 86 (NBG), Bayer in KG32/70 (NBG), Bayer 2453 (NBG), Venter 16 (BOL).

d.var. calcarea var.nov. 
Type: CAPE-3420 (Bredasdorp): De Hoop (-AD), C. Burgers 1648 (NBG, Holo.).

calcarea: pertaining to lime.

Differs from the species in having short erect leaves, with a short retused end-area.  It is proliferous and the rosettes, at least in cultivation, tend to be raised as opposed to remaining flattish to the ground.  (A var. mirabilis foliis brevioribus erectis viridibus sordidus differt).

First collected by C. Burgers in the De Hoop Nature reserve where it grows on low-lying limestone rocks.  There are two other collections from the Potberg area which may have some connection with this variety, or with the species.  One is by Prof. Compton in which the plants appear to have been in sand and very obscure.  At first sight they appear to be of H. mutica, but they have very pointed leaves.  The other collection is also by C. Burgers and appear to be of plants with more slender and longer leaves from the lower slopes of the Potberg.  There is also a collection from the Potberg once made by A. Mitchell of a very small plant, like the variety consanguinea described below, but which is H. variegata var. modesta.  H. heidelbergensis is also known from this area.

Distribution: 3420 (Bredasdorp): De Hoop (-AD), C. Burgers 1648 (NBG); NNE. Buffelsfontein (-BC), Burgers 2018 (NBG).

e.var. consanguinea var.nov. 
Type: CAPE-3419 (Caledon): Die Galg (-BA), Bayer (NBG, Holo.).

consanguinea: related.

A small proliferous, relatively soft-leaved form comparable with the small proliferous mountain form of H. turgida.  (A var. mirabilis rosulis parvioribus prolificantibus facile et foliis virellis differt).

It is difficult to deal with these montane forms which seem to occur in the sandstone ranges from the Potberg, the Riviersonderend, the Langeberg, the Swartberg and the Cedarberg mountains.  This particular element seems to be associated with the lower-lying varieties in the shales, in the same way that H. turgida transposes to retusa-like forms.  Although looking very similar to the sandstone forms of H. turgida, it has the very narrow elongate buds of H. mirabilis, and also the leaves have the brownish-red coloration associated with H. mirabilis.  The P.V. Bruyns collection cited below is significantly different from the two others as the leaves are quite slender.

Distribution: 3419 (Caledon): Die Galg (-BA), Bayer (NBG); Dwarswaterkloof (-BA), Bruyns 3244 (NBG).

Inadequately located: Near McGregor, Esterhuysen 5218, 5219 (BOL).

f.var. paradoxa (V.Poelln.) Bayer comb.nov. 
H. paradoxa V.Poelln., Feddes Repert.Spec.Nov. 33:240(1933).  idem. Desert.Pl.Life 99:90(1937).  H. maraisii var. paradoxa (V.Poelln.) Bayer :143(1976).  H. magnifica var. paradoxa (V.Poelln.) Bayer, Nat.Cact.Succ.J 32:18(1977).  Bayer :45(1982).  pp. H. asperula Haw. sensu Scott :119(1985).  Type: Cape, Vermaaklikheid, Mrs Ferguson in Stellenbosch 6692.  Not preserved.  Neotype (B&M): Riversdale, Ferguson (BOL).

paradoxa: paradoxical.

Von Poellnitz did not explain his epithet and simply related it to his H. schuldtiana (H. maraisii).  He was struck by the spines on the leaf face which are unusual.  A greater paradox is the relation of this element to H. emelyae var. major which also has a very spined leaf surface.  It does not follow that such spines are a dichotomously allocated character.  Their occurrence in H. magnifica does not necessarily suggest that var. paradoxa is better placed there on these and geographical grounds, than with H. mirabilis.  The var. paradoxa also seems to be associated with limestones and there is no other known link with H. mirabilis east of the Breede River.  The solution which I offer is the somewhat dubious connection of the species through H. heidelbergensis, and possibly also through the two populations ascribed to var. calcarea.

Distribution: 3421 (Riversdale): Vermaaklikheid (‑AC), J. Dekenah 8 (NBG), Kramer 433 (PRE), Fourcade 277 (NBG), Smith 3272, 5388, 6109 (NBG).

Inadequately located: Ferguson 1 (BOL).

g.var. sublineata (V.Poelln.) Bayer comb.nov. 
H. triebneriana var. sublineata V.Poelln. in Feddes Repert.Spec.Nov. 44:135(1938).  Type: Cape, Bredasdorp, G.J. Payne in Triebn. 1106.  Not preserved.  Neotype (designated here): CAPE-3420 (Bredasdorp): S. Bredasdorp (-CA), Smith 3966 (NBG).

sublineata: almost lined.

This is also a sandstone variant from south of Bredasdorp.  The leaves are relatively long and slender.  A similar, well-lined but more robust form used to be abundant immediately north of the town too along the river bank.  It should be expected to occur further to the west.

Distribution: 3420 (Bredasdorp): S. Bredasdorp (-CA), Smith 3966 (NBG), Stayner in KG209/60; N. Bredasdorp (-CA), Smith 3252, 3266, 3830, 3976 (NBG).

Inadequately located: Bredsadorp, Venter 17, 18 (BOL), Barker 21337 (BOL).

h.var. triebneriana (V.Poelln.) Bayer comb.nov. 
H. triebneriana V.Poelln., Cactus J 5:33(1936). idem. Feddes Repert.Spec.Nov. 41:214(1937).  idem. Cactus J 6:36(1937).  idem. Desert.Pl.Life 99:101(1937).  idem. Feddes Repert.Spec.Nov. 47:8(1939):  H. mirabilis Haw.  pp. Bayer :136(1976).  pp. Bayer :47(1982).  pp. Bayer, Excelsa 7:42(1977).  pp. Scott :69(1985).  Type: Cape, Strydomsvlei, Mrs Helm in Triebn. 841. Not preserved. Lectotype (Bayer, 1976): icon. (B):  H. willowmorensis V.Poelln., Feddes Repert Spec.Nov. 41:216(1937).  non Scott, Aloe 11:42(1973).  Type: Cape, Willowmore, Mrs Helm in Triebn. 840.  Not preserved. Lectotype (B&M): icon (B):  H. triebneriana var. depauperata idid. 43:94(1938).  ibid. Desert.Pl.Life 9:101(1937).  Type: Cape, Stormsvlei near Robertson, Payne in Triebn. 990. Not preserved. Lectotype (Bayer, 1976): icon. (B):  H. triebneriana var. multituberculata idem. Feddes Repert Spec.Nov. 44:135.  idem. 47:10(1939).  Type: Cape, NW. Napier, G.J. Payne in Triebn. 1111. Not preserved. Lectotype (Bayer, 1976): icon, (B):  H. triebneriana var. rubrodentata Triebn. et V.Poelln. ibid. 47:10(1939).  Type: Cape, between Villiersdorp and Greyton, G.J. Payne in Triebn. 1143.  Not preserved. Lecotype (B&M): icon (B). Epitype (designated here): CAPE-3419(Caledon): near Genadendal (-BA), Bayer in KG692/69 (NBG):  H. triebneriana var. napierensis ibid.  Type: Cape, Napier, G.J. Payne in Triebn. 1145.  Not preserved.  Neotype (designated here): CAPE-3419(Caledon): Skietpad (-BD), Bayer 4642 (NBG):  H. triebneriana var. turgida Triebn. ibid. 47:11(1939).  Type: Cape, N. of Napier, G.J. Payne in Triebn. 1107.  Not preserved:  H. triebneriana var. subtuberculata V.Poelln. idem. 47:10(1939).  Type: Cape, S. Caledon, G.J. Payne in Triebn. 1114.  Not preserved:  H. triebneriana var. pulchra V.Poelln. ibid. 49:29(1940).  Type: Cape, N. Stormsvlei, Stellenbosch 19.  Not preserved.  Neotype (designated here): CAPE-3420(Bredasdorp): Stormsvlei Pass, Beukmann in Smith 5609 (NBG):  H. rossouwii V.Poelln., Kakteenkunde 7:75(1938).  Type: Cape, Napier, Rossouw in Triebn. 1059.  Not preserved. Lecotype (B&M): icon (B). H. nitidula V.Poelln., Desert.Pl.Life 11:192(1939), Bayer, Cact.Succ.J(U.S.) 52:10(1980).  Type: Cape, Worcester, Swellendam etc., Venter 15.  Not preserved. Lectotype (B&M): icon (B).  Epitype (designated here): CAPE-3419(Caledon): near Greyton, Bayer in KG31/70 (NBG).

triebneriana; in honour of W. Triebner.

In recognising the typical variety as the previously named ssp. mundula, it becomes necessary to find a name for the main body of the species, and this is now taken from the first name that can be fairly definitely associated with the species.  This is despite the improbable locality cited for H. triebneriana and considering the very poor records associated with Triebner’s contributions.  Where the typical variety of the species is restricted to the single locality southwest of Bredasdorp, this generalised variety is widespread in the area from Caledon, east to Swellendam, to Napier and back to Caledon.  At Swellendam there is an additional population to the one south of Stormsvlei where this species is confounded with H. maraisii.

Distribution: 3419 (Caledon): Uitkyk (-AB), Smith 5562 (NBG), Bayer in KG682/69 (NBG); N. Uitkyk (-AB), Bayer in KG28/70 (NBG); Dagbreek (-BA), Bayer 2453 (NBG); near Greyton (-BA), Smith 3245, 3260, 3265, 3419, 3811, 3904, 3905, 3968, 5481, 5482, 5643 (NBG), Bayer in KG 30/70, in KG31/70 (NBG); Near Genadendal (-BA), Bayer in KG692/69 (NBG); Skietpad (-BD), Bayer 4642 in KG510/70 (NBG); Mierkraal, Napier (-BD), Bayer in KG681/69 (NBG).  342O(Bredasdorp): Stormsvlei (-AA), Smith 3254, 3457, 3971, 5609, Bayer in KG26/70 (NBG), De Kok  296 (NBG); Near Breede River (-AB), Tomlinson 13680 (PRE).

Inadequately located: ex Triebner, Smith 4947 (NBG); Venter in NBG6290/39; Caledon, Venter 13, 15 (BOL).

H. Mirabilis 8347

Haworthia mirabilis (Haw.) Haw.
[as Aloe mirabilis Haw.] 
Curtis’s Botanical Magazine,

vol. 33: t. 1354 (1811) [n.a.]

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 2, Chapter 13:- A trip to Bredasdorp

This essay was published in Haworthiad 16:86, 2002.

I wrote an article about Haworthia rossouwii in Aloe 38:31(2001), in which I resurrected this old name to replace that of my own H. serrata.  This was necessary because I had found this plant (because of its localisation and its abundance there, it is better to say ‘this species’) at two places near Bredasdorp as opposed to where I had described my species from near Heidelberg.

One needs to know something about the geography and geology of the Southern Cape (and the Overberg as a part of it is also known) to really follow all the ramifications of any discussion about Haworthia, including this one.  In fact one needs to know a whole lot more, and I will also try to explain that and its implications for the collector and Haworthiophiles.  This “whole lot more”, I will call the Corporate Mind because it includes so much – so remember CM!  If I regard H. rossouwii as a species, I have to consider all the plants and all the places where they grow in order to determine the nature of this particular system of living things.  As I explained in my article, there is a problem with the fact that little is actually known about the Haworthias of the Overberg.  They occur in small populations scattered over a fairly wide area which has been heavily impacted on by agriculture.  Thus about 90% or more of the Overberg is now wheatfield or pasture.  Like Gasteria carinata, which is also a Southern Cape species, Haworthia is associated with rocky outcrops and thus also with the geographical erosion and drainage systems of the area.  It is quite probable that cultivation has had relatively very little impact on Haworthia in terms of actual available and suitable habitat.

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Volume 3, Chapter 1:- Haworthia mirabilis, and the interface with Haworthia maraisii

The problems of species classification of Haworthia should now be well known to all enthusiasts of this interesting genus.  I have proposed and maintained, with cosmetic changes, a nomenclatural system for it since 1975.  It is a system with which I have managed an extensive collection and herbarium record, and I know it works within the limitations imposed by the evident fractal nature of “species” and their variability.  In this paper I would like to expose these limitations with respect to the concept of two species viz. Haworthia mirabilis, and Haworthia maraisii, where there may be only one. (In the original hardcopy publication of this article, the illustrations are all captioned H. maraisii when it would have been sensible to have used H. mirabilis).

In most discussions concerning the classification of Haworthia, participants have suggested that there are too many species and that some of them should be “lumped”.  On the other hand, there have been several writers who, as prospective taxonomists and experts on the group, continue to expand the range of entities at the formal rank of species and varieties despite all the evidence and indications that this could be an endless path leading nowhere.  My own inclinations have been to minimize the number of species and to use varietal rank in two ways as a communication medium.  One is that I have tended to reject varieties of older authors which I did not think had a strong enough geographical base, but also recognizing that there is nevertheless some information inherent in such names.  Often I felt these varieties simply expressed the variability in a way that was insignificant with respect to the species as a whole.  Two, is that I have described some new varieties to provide names for morphological variation that I consider is new and previously unrecognized, accepting that these names should perhaps not be immortalized either.  Thus my proviso has been that these new varietal names should not be taken too seriously.  As far as the number of species is concerned, I know full well that there could be fewer species.  I get caught up in the problem of identifying a “species” in a strict botanical definition of the word, as opposed to the need for “names” as a way of simple communication about the plants in the amateur fraternity.  Because of the problem of similarity and continuity, the elimination of names becomes similar to that of falling dominoes and the question then arises of “where does it end?”  My classification should not be confused with a system of names intended for horticulture or for trade.  But neither do I think such a system should adulterate a formal botanical one.

Therefore, underpinning this presentation is a definition of a species as dynamic systems of living organisms morphologically, genetically and even behaviorally, continuous in space and time.

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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 4, Chapter 4:- Some variation in Haworthia mirabilis var. sublineata

Statistical analysis of two populations of Haworthia mirabilis (V.Poelln.) M.B.Bayer

M.B.Bayer & L.M.Loucka


In discussing H. rossouwii (Aloe 38:31, 2001), Bayer mentions the possible continuity with H. mirabilis var. sublineata.  But any comment like this is complicated by the problems of variation, description and circumscription.  We want to discuss the variation in the latter element and indicate further where the problems are in the delineating species and varieties.  It seems that one of the assumptions of classical plant taxonomy is that of linear dichotomy, black and white, this species or that, and also that there is hierarchical and consistent in-group similarity to some unstipulated degree.  Haworthia, and particularly the subgenus Haworthia, presents a problem to those interested in the genus in that the classification is confused and that identifications are difficult.  Attempts been made to explain that the classification is confused by the perceptions associated with classical taxonomy, and that the sharp and precise discontinuities suggested by a ‘key’ to the taxa, simply do not occur in the subgenus Haworthia, in fact they do not occur in many other genera, and this simple truth seems to be difficult for some to accept.

Thus this article includes a report of a study done on a batch of seedlings of H. mirabilis var. sublineata.  It shows that there is very little probability that one could quantify separation of this from other populations presumed to be the same species.

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Volume 4, Chapter 7:- The brutality of the reality of Haworthia.

My experience is that Latin names definitely mean different things to different people.  I submitted this manuscript as a draft to various people and the response varied from one which was nil, to some sort of general accord.  I am, however, no longer confident that botanists either do or will agree with my contention is that the real essence of Latin names should, in addition to their many other usages, be in the relation of plants to their origins, relationships, behavior and imagined future.   A classification can only have the authority that experience and knowledge permit, and be really evaluated and understood by persons with the same sort of evidence before them.  In coming to closure I have been exploring some more, and with my wife Daphne, made two finds which further convince me that we have to come to a classification by agreement.  However, the requirement is that species are seen to be highly complex systems with none of the rigidity and inflexibility that nomenclatural rules imply, nor any of the egocentric authoritarianism that a history, of which I have been a part, suggests.

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Volume 5, Chapter 2:- Haworthia Reality Check

Clichés may often fall into the category of often repeated untruths that come to be believed. One I have used too often is … ”The problem is…”, without ever seemingly being to explain what it actually was. I studied Oxalis and it seemed that where there was an awful amount of detail to explain difference, all this detail simply obscured the fact of similarity.  So what I did is “reverse engineer” the process and apply the principle to Haworthia where I have for so long tried fruitlessly to explain that we were all explaining and accepting that there was difference based on detail.

I made some progress in finding facts to support this contention in the approximate 40 populations of Haworthia in the Zuurberg that seem to suggest that plants looking as different as H. cooperi and H. cymbiformis may be the same species. However, this was not very convincing.

Recently I had reason to explore more populations in the arena of a larger problem in H. mirabilis where I may be considering as many as 400 populations or many more.   Illustrated by the following sample pictures:- … It is now my contention that different as all these single plants appear to be, they are in fact members of one species. The inference is drawn from observations of approximately 150 populations occurring in a geographically coherent pattern in the restricted area between Worcester and Riversdale and southward to the coast. The inference is strengthened by the observations of similar continual intergradation of variation in similar sets of populations throughout the distribution range of the genus.

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Volume 5, Chapter 3:- Haworthia Deglamorized. A Recapitulation.

Steven Hammer, in his inimitable style, put a very fresh face on Haworthia in CSJl 80:140 (2008). He drew attention to the wonder of the plants in cultivation for the collector, contrasted to a reality of unglamorous scruffiness in the field as per the lens and pen of Bayer. It has fallen to my lot as a very unwilling taxonomist to reduce the fascination these plants have for me, and for so many others, to the mundane vortex of labels, their proliferation and continual amendment.  he fact is whether on a label or on the tongue, a name is a part of any language we use to talk to each other; but we are not learning anything from a well-documented history and in Haworthia seem to remain lost in a maze.

The unhappy truth for Haworthia is that by the time von Poellnitz in Germany, G.G.Smith in South Africa, F. Resende in Portugal, A.J.A. Uitewaal in Holland,  W.Triebner in Namibia, J.W.Dodson and J.R.Brown in USA had either left or abandoned the scene, there were any number of names that meant very little more than the Latin they were written in.  J.R. Brown presented a talk, A brief review of the Genus Haworthia, to the Los Angeles Cactus and Succulent Society that was published in the Cactus and Succulent Journal of America 29:125-135 (1957).  He noted the number of species and varietal names at 160 and 370 (!) respectively, arranged in 20 sections.

While J.R. Brown was winding down (his last note on Haworthia was published in 1970), I was busy trying to make sense of a two large files that seemed to form the body of a manuscript by G.G.Smith for which Mrs. M. Courtenay-Latimer had drafted a title… “A monograph of the genus Haworthia.”  This manuscript comprised a collection of all current species descriptions arranged in the purported twenty sections of Berger and accompanied by many illustrations from the original publications, as well as by many of Smith’s own photographs and those of H.G.Fourcade. We know that Smith retired in a huff, but was there really good reason for his exit?

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H. mirabilis magnifica, MBB6651, S Riversdale

I think we have to find a way to deal with this issue of names. Let us try H. magnifica. It originated in a population from the Frehse Reserve SE Riversdale and it is truly difficult to circumscribe all those individual variants.  The name has also been attached to a number of other plants and populations from various places.  The name magnifica is not clearly assignable beyond individuals that can be said to resemble the type (an illustration) and there are individual plants in the Frehse population that do not accord with either picture or description.  There are individual plants and populations going all the way to near Caledon that confound the name still further. In my opinion the Frehse reserve plants belong to a single system that I consider to be H. mirabilis (and I am not so sure that it is not bigger still).  Do we just drop the name ‘magnifica’ and use locality?   So is it better to say H. mirabilis magnifica (Frehse Reserve) and H. mirabilis magnifica (3km S Riversdale) or H. mirabilis magnifica (Windsor) for the variants that occur at each of those places?  Also H. mirabilis jakubii (Goukou) that I think is a connection between H. mirabilis magnifica  and H. mirabilis paradoxa (Vermaaklikheid and on to Infanta).  We could use this system and also the Breuer and Hayashi names attached to other mirabilis populations in the Riversdale area.  The disadvantage of place names is that they convey nothing to people unfamiliar with local geography and to them there may be no difference.  On the other hand that the formal Latin names may be restricted by the accompanying description and illustration, and not convey the variations that occur in the various populations.

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Volume 5, Chapter 5:- Haworthia mirabilis

I trust that it is clear by now that I consider H. magnifica, H, maraisii, and H. heidelbergensis to be essentially the same one species and emphasize that it is really a self-evident truth that species are complex systems and not simply a randomly occurring set of similar looking things.  In a recent manuscript submitted to Haworthiad, I wrote about new finds elaborating this point of view.  The essence of this chapter is to discuss exploration focused on clarifying the position in the eastern area between Riversdale and the very problematic H. pygmaea “squadron” that I have also discussed at length.  Prior to the trip I had an ongoing communication with Gerhard Marx and we agreed that H. ‘splendens’ was in fact better fitted in H. mirabilis, the major obstacle for me being the fact that there was no field record nearer than Riversdale itself to substantiate such a view.  I do, however, want to here also record two further populations east of the Breede River and other populations of H. mirabilis west of the Breede and south of anything previously noted.

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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 5, Chapter 10:- Haworthia ‘enigma’ and H. mutica var nigra.

7778 H. mirabilis. Komserante 4900

If the name “H.enigma” applies to the plant (or plants) from east of Riversdale at Komserante, it is a name that I really do not advise to be taken seriously from a botanical point of view.  It is useful at population level and to demonstrate the nature of classification difficulties but it is a minor problem in so far as those difficulties extend.  The plants were first shown to me by J. Dekenah on the same day that he also showed me ”H. magnifica” in the Nature Reserve just south of Riversdale that is less than 3km away. My impression then was that it was the same element even if it did look a bit different. The plants are quite large (to 70mm diameter), fairly tubercled and often with lines in the upper retused area of the leaf face.  While I originally classified “H. maraisii” under “H. magnifica”, I later separated them because it seemed so incongruous to include all the variants of the western “H. maraisii” with the few populations of “H. magnifica” then known.  Also, as Essie Esterhuizen pointed out, “H atrofusca” as a variant of “H. magnifica”, seemed to be more dominant than had been realized.  There were several other complications largely due to ignorance. Since my revision I have done so much more exploration and turned up so much new material that I have been forced to the conclusion that there is really one main element involved and that is H. mirabilis. This is where I believe the Komserante plants belong and the difference from the Nature Reserve population is due to a degree of infusion of H. retusa.

I revisited the site with Kobus Venter many years ago but did not look at a reported second population higher up the hill, taking it to be a little different based on plants I saw in Kobus’ collection. What was on my mind while we were recently exploring the area further east to examine the possible connection of H. mirabilis “magnifica” to “splendens” (and which we confirmed), was the fact I had never seen Kobus’ plants from Kruis Rivier northeast of Riversdale other than in Kobus’ collection. The plants I saw were also generally more robust than “H. magnifica” and more evenly tubercled. Kobus kindly took me to that Kruis River locality and much to my surprise the plants were in flower late October (see JDV92/65 Figs1). This is quite wrong for H. mirabilis, which is essentially a summer flowering species. I later went again to explore Komserante more thoroughly and to look at both the “magnifica” populations to which I believe the name “H. enigma” has been applied.  he populations are in fact no more than 75m apart and cannot be considered to be genetically discrete at all (see MBB7778 Figs 2, and MBB7779 Figs 3). While it is true that the habitats are slightly different, this is reflected in the plants that at the upper slope of the hillside are vegetatively more robust and even clump forming, while those lower down in a bushier grassier habitat tend to be solitary and more withdrawn into the soil. These plants flower in summer and it is evident to me that there must have been some genetic exchange with H. retusa that grows approximately 200m away on the same hillside.

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Volume 5, Chapter 13:- A February 2009 Miscellany

7807 H.minima.  Swartrug, SE Heidelberg. 002

This chapter is based on recent field exploration and embroiders around many aspects of Haworthia species discussed in earlier chapters.  What should be striking is that new populations follow the very predictable geographic pattern that all my earlier exploration has exposed and in my estimation confirm in every way what I consider a sound and satisfactory taxonomic solution and help explain its limitations.

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Volume 5, Chapter 14:- Haworthia jakubii – another new species?

Alsterworthia produced a special edition (No.7) in 2004 to publish new species and combinations subsequent to the publication of Haworthia Revisited.  I was given a copy because of my own contributions in respect of primarily new combinations.  I had the previous year done some exploration along the Duiwenhoks River south of Heidelberg and found several Haworthia populations notably MBB7227 Witheuwel and MBB7229 Somona. I discussed these in Chapter 6 of my Update Vol 2. dealing with the complexity of the element H. retusa (mutica) var. nigra and the problematic nature of H. mirabilis as it occurs around and south of Heidelberg.  So when I saw the picture of H. jakubii I merely glanced at the description to see the words Duiwenhoks River to think this was another of those weird armchair products to befuddle the enthusiast and add another name from an endless production belt.  There was nothing about the illustration that suggested anything new to me so it is really fascinating to now only read what the author had to say “ When the author first saw them, he thought they were something new because of their features”.  This is a very subjective statement and I have no doubt that the author could be misled into thinking that other plants from the same population could also be “something new”.  Why “something new” should be allied to a Latin binomial is intrinsic to “namenklutter” and the disrepute into which taxonomy has fallen.

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Volume 5, Chapter 16:- Can Haworthia teach us anything?

My experience with Haworthia dates back to my childhood and on to nearly 70 years of observation.  However, my interest was only able to properly manifest when I began work at the Karoo Botanic Garden in 1969 and it has since been through many phases.  I wrote a formal taxonomic revision of the genus in 1999 and have spent a good bit of the last nine years adding to and verifying what I wrote.  Haworthia has always been regarded as a problem child of botany to be avoided by professional taxonomists for various reasons including an apparent phobia of the many amateur collectors peering over the shoulder while at work.  This has puzzled me because it seemed to me that if the need for good classification and identification was so strong there was an obligation on botany to provide the service.  So my involvement has been largely by default.  I was trained in an agricultural and entomological tradition with a totally different and unsophisticated approach to things like taxonomy, systematics and nomenclature.  In the infant science that agriculture then was in South Africa, I can barely claim that my MSc is much more than an indication that I tried to learn something beyond normal schooling. While trained as an agricultural entomologist, my leaning was to plants and I eventually came to the Karoo garden to do what I liked best viz. exploring plants.  Unfortunately the route is via identification and names and so I have walked a long road through the minefield that this is.  Was this only in respect of Haworthia?  No!  This is a persistent misconception.  Haworthia is only different because it has attracted such close and sustained amateur interest by so many for so long.  I experienced failing classification in many other genera.  To be fair I think the real reason is the lack of importance attached to the whole function of plant classification.  It even seems as if many modern botanists pursue the study of plant relationship under the guise of systematics that is not committed to providing formal names and identifications.

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Volume 6, Chapter 9:- Interesting nursery plants

I have become increasingly concerned about the poor relations that exist between collectors and the authority of Nature Conservation.  The argument that collectors threaten and despoil natural populations is very real and I do not dispute at all that Conservation authorities have a very valid complaint. They have a function to perform. On the other hand there is an interaction between human beings and nature in all its forms that should be fostered to the benefit of both sides.

Nurseries, traders and collectors are as much of the picture as are conservationists, institutions, researchers and landowners.  It is unfortunate that there is no non-government party that lobbies for the rights and activities of the former group,  but it is not my intention nor within my competence to argue all the aspects of the case.

I strongly believe that people have the right of access to nature in all its forms and the issue is one of individual responsibility and proper consideration of consequences. An appreciation of and sensitivity to nature should be reflected in whatever we do in our lives. My own collecting impulses led me to institutional employment where I could exercise my interest to what I thought were efforts more worthy than my personal interests.  From that position I also did try to share and extend privileges to a wider circle.  It is  in this way that I became involved with Sheilam Nursery.  It was not my wish or intention that my collection should have come to be housed there. However, Sheilam has succeeded over a period of nearly 40 years to maintain a fairly true record of my collections obtained as propagated material from the Karoo Garden at Worcester.  My offer of permitted collections dating from my revision of Haworthia in 1966 to the Karoo Garden was rejected and for a while resided with Etwin Aslander at Brackenfell.  It has since passed to Garth Schwegman at Sheilam who has taken a particular interest in the maintenance and propagation of that collection.

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Volume 6, Chapter 10:- Non-pilose "pilosa"

When I was at the Karoo Garden I became a bit befuddled by the way botanists referred to the Cape Floral Kingdom.  It seemed to me that they used the term for the vegetation that was on the Table Mountain sandstones and conveniently excluded that which was not.  Thus the “Fynbos” vegetation, characterized by its Ericaceae, Proteaceae and Restionacea, was synonymous with this floral kingdom.  An official document was published at the time which purported to classify the Southern African vegetation into biomes as major floral assemblages with very broad boundaries.  It did not make sense to me because my observations were that the “fynbos”, however different in terms of historical origin, was essentially a flora of the sandstones, and that there was rather a winter rainfall biome which included karoid (Succulent Karoo mainly) flora.  The role of geological substrate and skeletal soils seemed to me to be pivotal as there are places where one can virtually take a single step from one vegetation assemblage into another.

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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 2:- Further exploration in Haworthia. Further to finale.

The writing of my grand finale was inspired by several things. One of these was another item of a mind-numbing foray into the classification of Haworthia. So I asked that deep thinker and observer, Gerhard Marx, for a devil’s advocate (abbrev. DA) point of view which he has done with the same competence he has as an artist. I have many times in my writing addressed the issue of a species definition and produced one too. Not surprisingly the first thing the DA does is dismiss my definition without producing one of his own. Simply being able to say that an indeterminate number of plants from some population are sufficiently different in respect of a character or two from other haworthias, is motivation enough for the generation of a new name?

The case of H. groenewaldii Breuer, described in an article authored in Alsterworthia 2.2:15-20 by Breuer, Marx and Groenewald is the case in point. It presents the description of this supposed new species from Buffeljags east of Swellendam. The article is written in the first person (Breuer) who quotes extensively from Gerhard’s e-mails, and includes a piece by Jannie Groenewald under the heading “Description of the Vegetation type and distribution”. The overall impression is of an article that conforms to the style of a forgotten era and it is not possible or sensible to attempt a rational dismissal.  Who is actually responsible for the article and how does one correct misleading statements without giving offence?

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Volume 7, Chapter 3:- A field trip to the Potberg area.

These field trips are always made with some objective in mind in respect of new exploration.  In this case I wanted to get more pictures of H. mutica as it is a species that I have few digital images of.  There were also localities that I remembered from the days when I was sweeping the countryside at a fairly coarse scale and was not much bothered by detail.  I confidently expected the number of real species conforming to that in other fields of botany and zoology, to be in the region of 33.  I never dreamed that such divergent views would, or even could, arise from less information than even then available to me.  So while 450 names were whittled down to the mid-hundreds by me, students of the genus have in recent years pushed that up to the 600 mark.  My opinions have been couched in quite conservative terms but it is a problem of the nomenclatural system that an identification in respect of a Latin name evokes a reality that does not exist.  I maintain that the problems we experience in Haworthia are no different to that which exists in many animal and plant genera.  I think that primarily this is because of the absence of insight into, and understanding of, the actual nature of species and the two dimensional model we use to relate them.  Species are very variable systems because they have to be to survive the constantly changing world they occupy.  In this article I am just going to present images of plants within populations of four different species viz. H. variegata, H. minima, H. mirabilis and H. mutica.

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Volume 7, Chapter 5:- Still more Haworthia mutica and Haworthia mirabilis

It so happens.  Heidi Hartmann first visited the Karoo Garden more than 35 years ago and it has been very difficult for me to pay attention both to her mesembs and all my other plant interests.  In the last few years she has been working on Acrodon.  This is a small genus of only 5 to 6 species that occurs in the Southern Cape with much the same distribution and habitat requirements as Haworthia.  She had had some second thoughts on a species she had described as Acrodon calcicola and intimated that she needed photographs to show what proves to be detaching fruits (capsules).  So off we went to get that northeast of Bredasdorp at Rooivlei.  But Nick Helme had about a year before sent me an intriguing picture of a greenish soft looking plant from near the DeHoop Reserve entrance road to the east.  I had considered that it might be an equivalent of the H. muticaXmirabilis population at Die Kop (MBB7500) that Ingo Breuer usefully described as H. hammeri .  I use the name with great trepidation because to say what is correct usage is difficult.  It could pass as a cultivar name, a varietal name or a form name.  I am quite sure it has its origins in the interaction of two species and that is what a botanical name should reflect that; thus H. muticaXmirabilis or however else the nomenclaturists may require.  So these journeys are never without distractions as Rooivlei itself is a remarkable site.  I find that I have few images of the populations of Haworthia that occur there.  The product is nearly all pictures/images.

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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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