Haworthia Revisited – 25. Haworthia nortieri

25. Haworthia nortieri Smith, JS.Afr.Bot. 12:13(1946).  Bayer :141(1976).  Bayer :49(1982).  Scott :88(1985).  Type: Cape, Vanrhynsdorp, Smith 1676a (NBG):  H. nortieri var. montana idem. 16:6(1950).  Type: Cape, Clanwilliam, Smith 1678 (NBG):  H. nortieri var. giftbergensis G.G.Sm. ibid. 16:7 (1950).  Type: Cape, Vanrhynsdorp, Smith 7199 (NBG).

nortieri: for Dr. Nortier.

Rosette stemless, proliferous, 3-5cm φ.  Leaves 25-45, soft sub-erect, ovate-lanceolate to obovate, pale to purplish green, with translucent spots on the leaves, small spines on margins and keel.  Inflorescence slender, to 30cm.  Flowers greyish-white, yellowish in tube.

1982 – H. nortieri occurs in the area between Clanwilliam and Vanrhynsdorp, extending inland to the foot of Vanrhyns Pass and on top of the plateau of the northern Cedarberg mountains.  The var. globosiflora occurs in the dryer Botterkloof area and is distinguished by the flower having a globose tube while the leaves are shorter and broader.  However, the flowers are not always so inflated and plants in the Vanrhyns Pass area have normal flowers while being vegetatively similar to the var. globosiflora.  This is the basis for rejecting species status for the last-named.  H. nortieri occupies the mid‑western geographic locale for the genus.  The distribution southwards is not known and there is a big gap between this species at Pakhuis Pass (near Clanwilliam) and a form of H. archeri var. dimorpha in the Elandskloof area southeast of Citrusdal.  H. arachnoidea occurs to the north of Vanrhynsdorp and also to the north and far west of Vanrhyns Pass.  It does not, however, seem to appear in the Botterkloof area.  H. nortieri is distinguished largely by the opaque leaf surfaces with abrupt, ovoid, pellucid spots.  The flowers, and particularly the buds, are greyish in colour but the colour inside the tube is variable.

1999 – The range of H. nortieri has been extended considerably.  The reference to H. archeri var. dimorpha at Elandskloof is quite erroneous and simply arises from the difficulty in relating that collection to the nearest known species.  On the otherhand, the Elandskloof plants are only known to me from herbarium record and from two living plants collected by Drs Muller-Doblies.  These did not seem to unequivocally be H. nortieri.  P.V. Bruyns has collected H. nortieri from as far north as the Groenriver, to south as far as Kromriver in the Cedarberg.  The late Harry Hall also collected it in the northeastern Knersvlakte.  The most southerly collection is from near Opdieberg, north of Ceres.  These plants also resemble the var. globosiflora but the flowers are not globose.  At both extremes the plants tend to resemble H. globosiflora vegetatively .  The plants at Komkans tend to have globose florets, and this is also true of plants at Groenriver where the florets are short and squat.  The decision to include H. pehlemanniae within this species is also on account of the flower which is identical to that of var. globosiflora.  This is not only in shape, but in colour too.  Although the flowers may be the usual white with greenish veins, brownish-green flowers have been observed in both elements.  The reference in the original description to quadrantly as opposed to spirally arranged flowers defies plant growth principles.  The distribution of the two elements is complementary and gives the species as a whole an extraordinary cosmopolitan character.  The colour in the flowers of the typical variety can be remarkable and as if yellow paint had been daubed at the throat of the florets. Habitat ranges from the moist south slopes of the Cedarberg to the dry wastes of Namaqualand and the so-called Moordenaarskaroo.

a. var. nortieri
The typical variety occurs over a very wide area in the Table Mountain sandstones from south-east of Citrusdal to south-west of Nieuwoudtville.  In addition it extends out into the Namaqualand lowlands, into very arid conditions.  It is thus a very variable taxon in its own right.

Distribution: 3017 (Hondeklipbaai): Groenriver (-DD), Bruyns 6728 (NBG).  3118(Vanrhynsdorp): Komkans (-AA), Bruyns 6146 (NBG); Klipdrif (-BB), Hall 3390 (NBG); Gifberg (-DA), Smith 7199 (BOL,NBG), Thomas in NBG626/69; Steenkampskop (-DB), Bruyns 6167 (NBG); Kobe Pass (-DB), Bruyns 6170 (NBG); Die Kom (-DC), Bayer in KG329/72 (NBG); Doornriver (-DC), Smith 1676 (NBG), Leighton (BOL); W. Doornriver (-DC), Bayer 3637 (NBG); SE. Klawer (-DC), Leipoldt 4146 (BOL), Herre in STE6695 (BOL); E. Doornriver (-DD), Smith 1676a (BOL), Smith 6212 (BOL, NBG), Esterhuysen 6008 (BOL).  3119 (Calvinia): Uitkomst (-AC), Barker 10753 (NBG); Vanrhyns Pass (-AC), Smith 6211 (NBG), Hall in NBG656/60 (NBG), Ross-Frames in NBG1200/26 (BOL).  3218 (Clanwilliam): S. Clanwilliam (-BD), Van Jaarsveld 8153 (NBG).  3219 (Wuppertal): Pakhuis Pass (-AA), Smith 1678 (NBG), ex hort Whitehill NBG68397; Waboomsriver (-AC), Henderson 2212 (NBG); Diamond Drift (-AC), Leipoldt 3107 (BOL); N. Dwarsrivier (-AC), Bruyns in Bayer 6505 (NBG); E. Dwarsriver (-AD), Bruyns in Bayer 6506 (NBG); Heksberge (-CA), Smith 6116 (NBG), Muller-Doblies 79/015 (NBG), E. Elandskloof (-CA), Esterhuysen 3987 (BOL); Sandfontein (-CB), Esterhuysen 27199a (BOL); Cedarberg (-CB), Wagener in NBG11/43 (NBG); Nuwerus (-CB), Bruyns (NBG).  3319(Worcester): NW. Ceres (-AB), Aslander 645 (NBG).

b. var. globosiflora (Smith) Bayer
:119(1976).  Bayer 49(1982).  H. globosiflora Smith, JS.Afr.Bot. 16:11(1950).  Scott :87(1985).  Type: CAPE‑3119 (Calvinia): Doornbosch, N. Doorn River Bridge (‑CD), Smith 7198 (NBG).

globosiflora: rounded flowers.

This variety is not known from only the Doornbosch area south of Botterkloof, which is also relatively unexplored.  It has also been collected from as far east as the Ouberg Pass, southwest of Sutherland.  The illustration in Scott (:88, 1985) is not of this variety at all and is probably of H. decipiens.

Distribution: 3119 (Calvinia): Doornbosch, (‑CD), Smith 7198 (NBG); 50km N. Clanwilliam (-CD), Dyer 3750 (PRE); Botterkloof (-CD), Hall in NBG68414, Villet (BOL); Boontjiesrivier, Kansekraal (-CD), Leipoldt 4119 (BOL).  3220 (Sutherland): Ouberg Pass (-AC), Venter (NBG).

c. var. pehlemanniae (Scott) Bayer comb. nov. 
H. pehlemanniae Scott, Cact.Succ.J.(U.S.) 54:70(1982).  Scott :79(1085).  Type: CAPE-3320 (Laingsburg): 5km W. of Laingsburg (-BB), Scott 7450 (PRE).

pehlemanniae: for Inge Pehlemann.

Since first collected, this variety has been found at several other localities in the close vicinity of Laingsburg, but also further north in the Moordenaarskaroo and north of Matjesfontein.  It differs from the species in the absence of the translucent spots on the leaf, and the vegetative similarity to H. arachnoidea in the same area is deceptive.  It does appear to favour shales in relatively exposed situations as opposed to H. arachnoidea which generally prefers cooler south slopes. The two taxa grow in very close association.

Distribution: 3221 (Merweville): Klipfontein, N. Laingsburg (-CC), Aslander 801 (NBG).  3320(Montagu): 5km SW. Laingsburg (-BB), Scott 7450 (PRE), Bayer 3906 (NBG); N. Laingsburg (-BB), Venter (NBG).

Inadequately located: Matjiesfontein, Pillans 830 (BOL).

Volume 4, Chapter 2:- A glimpse of the super-species Haworthia nortieri

Barry Phipps, in an article reprinted in Haworthiad 20:61, writes that “the term species is a concept”. Donald Levins in “The origin, expansion and demise of plant species” devotes a chapter to “The premise and species concepts”. There is no dearth of literature and the entire subject is indeed, as Levins suggests, a subject of “heated debate”.  Levins also quotes from the literature, “… the idea of  good species … an artifact of the procedures of taxonomy”,  and “… our system of names appears to achieve a reality which it does not possess”. It is comforting for me to read his premise …”that the species is a dynamic entity that undergoes alterations in its gene pool, variation pattern and geographical distribution”, and his advice…”thus it is best to take a pluralistic approach to species’ passages in time, combining genetic and ecological perspectives”.

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Volume 6, Chapter 8:- A fleeting look at Haworthia arachnoidea

How did this start?  Is it possible to see anything with such a quick peek?

Somewhere in my memory bank is my stated opinion that understanding H. arachnoidea would assist any botanist towards a better understanding of classification. This was long before I came to see that this is a lot more necessary than I thought then. It is not just botanists who seem dumbed down to the reality of a diversity that is necessary for response to change and largely denied by the nomenclatural code and how it is practiced.  We have not understood change or what changes can occur.  During perhaps only the last 15 to 20 years has it become apparent that changes are cataclysmic and frequent.  I will skip the fact that the violence of catastrophe, or the drivers of catastrophe, may also induce change at even a cellular level.

I usually go into the field with a specific goal while also carrying a host of peripheral questions in my mind.  While exploring the problem of H. schoemanii, I was thus also thinking of Conophytum.  After photographing a species seen at Laingsburg, I mentioned to Steven Hammer that I had also seen it in the southeastern Tanqua Karoo (Bakoven).  This was news to him and so in my wish to re-establish the reality of H. venosa subsp. granulata recorded at Patasriver (actually Patatsriver road and that is another story that will be told) as well as the Conophytum for Steven, I undertook an expedition to the Tanqua.

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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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Very brief note re Haworthia nortieri flowers.

Some criticism about my supposedly having ignored the flowers in Haworthia comes at a very inopportune time. I set aside flowers for the reasons very obvious from the historical record but also because of the considerable problems of similarity in the appearance of the flowers in apparently quite different species. My priority was a geographic overview and a rational basis on which discussion and decision making could be based. It I just grossly unfortunate that other writers and critics seem to be wedded to a classification paradigm locked into the approach that prevailed 70 years and more ago. This in the total absence of a species definition other than the vague acceptance of a zoological one based on interbreeding capabilities. This ignoring the ease of hybridization among Haworthia variants in general.

While I have written an account of flower appearances in a small selection of populations, I also came across these few images I have of flowers in what I regard as the species H. nortieri. I have also added images of a single flower of H. maculata from a population high in the mountains at Worcester that could be seen as a southern extension of the H. nortieri set of populations. Note must be taken of my early contention that H. nortieri and H. globosiflora were the same species, based on my observation of the intermediate appearance of the flowers of a Vanrhyns Pass population. The H. maculata bud is typical of the species in the Southern Cape, whereas H. nortieri has rounded bud-tips.

The flower of the Trawal plant are dramatically different from that of, say, Sneeuberg. It is very understandable that differences like this lie at the base of all the argumentation and confusion that so despoils the naming and identification of Haworthia. A classification has been needed against which to explore and examine these differences. It seems to me totally unnecessary to try and construct another hierarchy of solely Latin names while so little is still unknown.

MBB6694 Kanetvlei, Hex River Valley as a variant of Haworthia nortieri.

In  Haworthia Update Vol. 9 dealing with H. maculata, I again draw attention to several populations that are problematic in an area very difficult to explore. The populations are MBB7865 at Keurkloof southeast of DeDoorns, EA1441 at the Hex River Pass, an unrecorded population south of Sandhills (about 3km east of Kanetvlei) reported by Ernst van Jaarsveld. In addition there are two populations apparently of H. arachnoidea at Tunnel Station east of Osplaas.

The illustrations that accompany this article are:

  1. MBB6694 Vreesniet, Kanetvlei.
  2. EA1441 Hex River Pass, east DeDoorns.
  3. MBB7865 ex E. Van Jaarsveld, Keurkloof, DeDoorns.

This population MBB6694 is at Kanetvlei southeast of Sandhills, and I originally ascribed it to H. arachnoidea but this is not correctTo this I can add unexamined populations reported by PV Bruynsdeep in the Langeberg at Keerom Damand another of Ted Oliver in the mountains north of Nuy.  MBB6694 is only 200-300m north of MBB7994 also in sandstone.  The sandstone strata are by no means all the same and one can even find shale bands in what is essentially a sandstone formation.  H. maculata flowers late winter to early spring and these other populations in early  summer.

I have not examined the flowers in any number and remain doubtful that this information will clarify any deductions that can be drawn from the vegetative characters or the geographic positions of the populations.  It appears to me that consideration must be given to a relationship with H. nortieri  that in my assessment occurs from the far northwest to as far east as Prince Albert {i.e. H. nortieri (devriesii)}. What I have seen of the flower, and shown now is that it definitely does not belong in the context of the Southern Cape species where the bud-tips tend to be “fish-tailed”. The inflorescence are slender and few flowered.

There is some criticism of my emphasis on geographical distribution as a key indicator of species. It was even said, as though I would have denied the fact, that I could not identify plants unless I knew where they came from. There is an incredible amount of both ignorance and the obtuse behind these statements. One critic feels that I have ignored detail and even ignored flower characters in the development of my opinions. This same critic claims a high degree of agreement with me (80%) based apparently on the view that so much of my classification is correct (meets with his approval), and presumably that the 20 percent that he contributes to the system makes it 100% correct. This is wholly wrong. This critic is simply unable to bridge the historical chasm between his introduction to, or knowledge of, Haworthia and mine.   He simply does not recognise the shift in method and why I switched from a “character-based” approach to a phytogeographic one. It is really very simple in that the character based system as used from the very beginning of classification, has not produced a solution to the identification and classification of Haworthia.  It all rests on a very weak and shaky definition of species determined by breeding barriers and consequently that morphological differences necessarily exist. My approach was to show that breeding barriers (at least in plants) could be integral to species and that morphological differences could equally be nothing but variation within species.  Therefore I arrived at a definition of species from the view that they were phenomena spread in space and changing with time. This is just a fundamental of plant species as they constitute the vegetation and the floras of the world. Virtually the first question following “What is that?”, is “where does it come from?”.

Why 6694 is so interesting is precisely because it occurs in an area which is so poorly known and represented in our knowledge of Haworthia.  The reality in the subgenus Haworthia is that there are several areas of great species richness and there is real pattern in the distribution of the various elements as they are listed in the 80% agreement area.  The 20% disagreement zone concerns truly trivial opinion and unsubstantiated statements, and almost ignores the real reasons for disagreement at all.  The real reasons are the realities that superficial morphological difference does not mean species and I have posted a vast amount of material that demonstrates that.  I have shown repeatedly that differences in single characters in what can be rationally said to be the same species, can be greater than between different species.

In the case of 6694 I did not pick any particular character to identify the plants as H. arachnoidea from probably as far back as 1975 and I can find no earlier record of this location.  I do recall a specimen in the Compton herbarium made by W.F.Barker that I mentally allied with H. arachnoidea but it is not cited as such in my revision. The identification was based on little else other than the spiny-ness of the plants and the fact that the nearest known locality for that species was a very new one of mine a few kilometres to the southwest. At the time, H. nortieri was barely known and this was from far to the northwest at Clanwilliam.  Since then H. nortieri has become much better known although still some distance north of Ceres, and with its globose-flowered variants at Laingsburg and eastwards.  H. arachnoidea remains remarkably unknown from the Cedarberg and Koue Bokkeveld mountains but does appear in the upper Hex River Valley.  Here it is odd that the leaves tend to have the translucent dots that one would expect to characterise H. nortieri.  But otherwise the leaf coloration is the much darker green that is associated with H. arachnoidea.  A twist is that at Kunje, southeast of Citrusdal, H. nortieri does have very dark green leaves and there is no doubt that confusion with H. arachnoidea is inevitable.  I have very little to offer in this regard because this degree and level of confusion or doubt is intrinsic to the genus anyway.

Why I now decide to relate this Kanetvlei population to H. nortieri is not to be construed as a decision now to call white what previously was clearly and definitely black.  It is taking all my knowledge and experience to suggest simply that this is a better reflection of the situation where there is not enough hard data to determine identity at a higher level of certainty than about 50%.  What I do suggest that there are many situations in Haworthia as the case with H. maculata and H. pubescens only recently exposed.  In this case the two very different elements can be very confidently be said to be the same in respect of distribution and linking populations AND characters.  Throughout, particularly the subgenus Haworthia, we have situations of continuity and spatial (geographic trend) and nearly all my many publications deal with exactly this reality.  What it suggests is that my critic should come to consider if he has some other motive between punting points of difference that prevent him from finding points of agreement, besides those that rest coldly on logic.

1. MBB6694 Vreesniet, Kanetvlei.

Flower profiles.

Flower faces.

Flower buds.

2. EA1441 Hex River Pass, east DeDoorns.

3. MBB7865 ex E. Van Jaarsveld, Keurkloof, DeDoorns.