Haworthia Revisited – 38. Haworthia variegata

38. Haworthia variegata Bolus, J Bot.Soc.S.Afr. :137(1929).  V.Poelln., Feddes Repert.Spec.Nov. 27:102(1930).  ibid. 44:228(1938).  Bayer :165(1976).  Bayer :60(1982).  Scott :56(1985).  Type: Cape, Botterkloof, Mrs. E. Ferguson in Bolus 18900.

variegata: variegated.

Rosette stemless, proliferous, to 4cm φ.  Leaves 30-40, erect, slender, lanceolate, margins and keel spined, variegated.  Inflorescence simple, slender, to 35cm.  Flowers greenish-white with brownish venation, sparse on peduncle.

1982 – This species is for the present only known in the area between Riversdale and Stilbaai.  Of the two populations known, one comprises very proliferous plants in rocky situations, and the second sparsely proliferous individuals in sandy areas.  The plants have long slender leaves, dark green in colour and strongly variegated.  The relationship with other species is obscure and must probably be sought with H. chloracantha.  H. variegata and H. divergens are superficially very similar but the latter has incurved leaf tips.  Geographically considerations seem to preclude a real relationship between these two species.  H. variegata is closely associated with the coastal limestones of the Southwestern Cape.  As it is also in the winter rainfall area one can expect that it may present some problems in cultivation.

1999 – Several collections throw more light on this species and the discussion should be considered together with that for H. chloracantha, and H. floribunda.  These southern Cape species cannot be considered discrete elements.  C. Burgers collected from a very cryptic population on the eastern lower slopes of the Potberg.  The plants were very drawn into the gravelly sandstone derived but clayey soil.  These were given a manuscript name ‘H. hemicrypta’, applied here at varietal rank.  Three other different populations have been recorded all differing markedly from one another and this is expressed in the varieties recognised below.  The one at Swellendam is very like H. floribunda var. virescens.


a.var. variegata
Known only from Botterkloof and from several kilometres inland in sandy situations.  The plants are very variegated.  They can only be said to co-occur with one species which is in the same sub-genus, H. turgida.

Distribution: 3421(Riversdale): Droevlakte, Takkiesfontein (-AD), Bohnen 7791 (NBG,PRE); Botterkloof (-AD), Dekenah 19 (PRE), Smith 5384 (NBG), Ferguson in BOL18900; Hoekraal (-AB), Smith 5598 (NBG), Bayer in KG93/71 (NBG); 10km Riversdale to Stilbay (-AD), Minnaar in BOL23214;.


b.var. hemicrypta var.nov.  Type: 3420(Bredasdorp): NE. lower slopes of Potberg (-BC), C. Burgers 2582 (NBG, Holo.).

hemicrypta: half-buried.

Moderately variegated to plain, with leaves long and slender, tending to arch out and then incurved.  (A var. variegata foliis longis gracilibus subtiliter variegatis et habitu occultanti differt).

This variety is represented by three populations west of the Breede river with the most inland to the northeast of Swellendam.  The plants of the inland populations are quite robust and proliferous.  Both the most coastal and the most inland forms are relatively unmarked, whereas the other has distinctive spotting on the lower and outer leaf surfaces.

Distribution: 3420(Bredasdorp): Swellendam (-AB), Tomlinson 13681 (PRE), Ross-Frames in NBG2603/27 (BOL); 3km W. Swellendam (-AB), Smith 3232, 5620 (NBG), DeKok (NBG); Luiperskop (-AD), Venter 1 (NBG); NE. lower slopes of Potberg (-BC), C. Burgers 2582 (NBG), Bayer 2564 (NBG).


c.var. modesta var.nov. Type: CAPE-3420(Bredasdorp): SW. Kathoek (-AD), Bayer 2551 (NBG, Holo.).

modesta: modest.

Leaves broader and shorter and with less conspicuous spination, than the typical variety.  (A var. variegata habitu prolificanti et foliis brevioribus pernuerosis aliquantum incurvatis differt).

This variety occurs among fynbos in fairly loose sand amid rocks.  It is proliferous and moderately variegated although the fewer leaves are more turgid than expected for this species.  There is some evidence of translucence along the margins and at the leaf-tips, particularly in a collection by Venter also from Kathoek.  A.R. Mitchell also collected a single specimen of this element from the Potberg Mountain where it was later also noted by P.V. Bruyns.  H. heidelbergensis grows in the same vicinity.

Distribution: 3420(Bredasdorp): SW. Kathoek (-AD), Bayer 2551 (NBG), Potberg Mountain (-BC), Bayer & Bruyn 6542 (NBG).


d.var. petrophila var.nov.  Type: CAPE-3420(Bredasdorp): Renosterfontein (-CA), Burgers 2158 (NBG, Holo.).

petrophila: stone loving.

Very proliferous with more leaves which are relatively shorter and incurved than in the typical variety.

The leaves of this variety are rather slender, compared to the more deltoid-shape in the var. modesta.  The denser and stronger spination is reminiscent of H. herbacea, but otherwise there is little probability of any close relation with that species.

Distribution: 3420(Bredasdorp): Renosterfontein (-CA), Burgers 2158 (NBG)



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 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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