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 DeHoop 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 diificult 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.]