Haworthia Revisited – 55. Haworthia sordida

55. Haworthia sordida Haw., Revis. :51(1821).  Aloe sordida Roem. et Schult., Syst.Veg. 7:644(1829).  Salm Dyck, Monogr. 7:f2(1863).  Type: icon, f2, Salm Dyck, Monogr.:  H. sordida var. agavoides (Zant. et V.Poelln.).  Smith, JS.Afr.Bot. 16:2(1950).  H. agavoides Zant. et V.Poelln., Feddes Repert.Spec.Nov. 43:232(1938).  Type: Cape.  Not preserved.

sordida: dirty looking.

Rosette stemless, seldom proliferous, to 150mm tall.  Leaves to 150 X 20mm, attenuate, erect, lanceolate-deltoid, dark grey to blackish-green, surfaces scabrid with indistinct slightly raised non-confluent tubercles; margins obtuse.  Inflorescence sparsely branched, lax.  Flowers tepals fused, tube straight, inner lower tepals revolute.

1982 – H. sordida is probably the eastern equivalent of H. scabra.  It is much more finely tuberculate and the leaves are nearly always blunt.  It is very localised and scarce, although it is distributed from Uitenhage westwards to Steytlerville.  The name does not do credit to this very handsome species and other species also accumulate dust on the leaf surfaces to become dirty looking.  H. sordida has the same slender wiry peduncle as in H. scabra.  It is a very slow growing species and although it may make offsets, the rate is extremely slow.

1999 – H. sordida is not particularly rare and occurs from near Addo all the way to Steytlerville.  It has never done well in cultivation until the advent of perlite mixtures in which it really seems to thrive.  Then it loses the dirty dull look and may become impressively blackish-green.  A peculiarity of the leaves is the way in which the margins more or less coalesce on the upper surface of the leaf before the tip.  The outer part may recurve slightly to form a small end-area which is retused in some of the western forms.  J.D. Venter suggests that this character may be a clue to the origins of H. bruynsii, which is geographically complementary.  The species has several notable variants and the leaf arrangement may vary similarly to that in H. scabra, although the leaves do not become as falcate and rotate as they can in that species. I did collect a form with exceptionally long, slender leaves from near Kirkwood in 1988 which I intended naming for Col. Scott.  Unfortunately the specific site has been destroyed by bush-clearing and I have not been able to relocate it.  A less slender-leaved form is present nearby which would probably conform with the var. agavoides.

a. var. sordida

This is the ordinary well-known form with erect , slightly spreading leaves which occurs around Addo, Kirkwood and on westwards to Kleinpoort

Distribution: 3324 (Steytlerville): Kleinpoort (-BD), Smith 2923, 7042, 7044 (NBG); W. Steytlerville (‑DB), Smith 7043 (NBG). 3325 (Port Elizabeth): Brakfontein (-AC), Bayer (NBG); Glenconnor (-AC), Cook (BOL); NW. Uitenhage (-AC), Smith 5091 (NBG); Enon (-BC), Thode A1133 (PRE); Welgevonden (-CA), Smith 3584 (NBG); Addo (-DA), Fourcade 101 (NBG), Smith 3548 (NBG); Addo Road (-DC), Long 1131 (PRE), Long 1961 (BOL), Arnold (BOL), Cook in NBG 965/30 (BOL), Britten (BOL).

b. var. lavranii Scott, Cact.Succ.J(U.S.) 53:70(1981).  Scott :8(1985).  Type: 3324 (Steytlerville): Perdehoek (-AC), Hechter in PRE 61124.

lavranii: for J. Lavranos.

This is characteristic of smaller western forms with recurved leaves, although the end-area as discussed above is hardly apparent in Scott’s illustration (1985).

Distribution: 3324 (Steytlerville): Perdehoek (-AC), Hechter in PRE 61124; NE. Die Bordjie, Baroe (-BC), Bayer & Bruyns 6588 (NBG).

Volume 4, Chapter 10:- Post-closure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

k map