Haworthia reinwardtii forma kaffirdiftensis The "Zebra Plant" - Cactus Club

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Haworthia reinwardtii forma kaffirdiftensis The "Zebra Plant"

Plant of the Month > Species G to H

by Bruce Brethauer         

          The Haworthias are leaf succulents which typically produce spiraling rosettes. Many species are grown for their exceptionally decorative foliage, which may bear windowed leaf tips, remarkably patterned leaves, intricately textured opalescent tubercles and fringed leaf margins. Haworthias are native to Southern Africa (Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, South Africa), and according to The Plant List, 156 species are presently recognized (but other, more conservative sources, suggest totals between 60 and 90 species).

           The Haworthias are close relatives of the Aloes, Gasterias, and Astroloba: the relationships are so close that hybrids can frequently be made between the species of these genera. Older references usually placed the Haworthias in the lily family, but more recent references suggest that they are more properly placed in the Xanthorrhoeaceae family.         

            I am especially drawn to those species with heavily textured leaves such as H. limifolia, and the various species which are commonly called the "Zebra Plant" including Haworthia attenuata,
H. fasciata and H. reinwardtii; all of these plants are nicely marked with raised white tubercles, but
H. attenuata, and H. fasciata have spreading foliage, reminiscent of a miniature agave, while the dense foliage of H. reinwardtii is recurved, covering long stems.         

           Haworthia reinwardtii v reinwardtii forma kaffirdiftensis is, in my opinion, one of the most elegant forms of this species, with shorter, narrower leaves, on shorter stems than most other varieties. The leaves are decorated with dense, pearl-like tubercles, rather than the band like tubercles which are typical of most forms of this species. The individual stems of this plant, with their tightly recurved leaves and tubercles has the overall appearance of an intricately woven rope. Plants branch from the base to produce multistemmed plants which may eventually grow to about 6 inches tall and to perhaps the same width. The leaves are typically dark green, but plants which are grown in very bright light may take on more reddish hues. As with most Haworthias, the flowers of this form are small (only to about 5 mm in height and perhaps slightly longer) with white petals with greenish/brown midribs and bases. The two downcurved petals are nicely ruffled, a trait which is hard to appreciate without magnification. The flowers are bourn on upright, wiry peduncles which may hold the flowers about 6 inches or so above the foliage on the plants which I have observed (older, more mature plants may produce longer peduncles). This has not been a fast growing plant for me; my plant added about half an inch to each of its stems, and produced a new offset this season, so its rate of growth is faster than Haworthia vicosa, and H. maughanii but slower than H. obtusa This variety originates from the east bank of the Fish River (possibly also known as the Kafferdrift River): it is believed that this variety is probably derived from a single clone in the wild.         

           As with most Haworthias, this variety has proven to be be easy to grow, and seems to tolerate a greater degree of shade than most other succulents (although I have found that it grows best in very bright light). It responds well to my guidelines on growing cacti and other succulents. Online sources suggest that this plant should not be kept below 50 degrees during its winter dormancy, but this does not reflect my experience, or the experience of Bill Hendricks: my plant has survived temperatures to nearly freezing, and has been frequently subjected to temperatures in the 40's; temperatures at Bill's greenhouse frequently dip to the 40's in winter. It is a nice compact plant, great for smaller spaces, and its slower rate of growth will assure that it will not quickly outgrow its allotted space. I believe that this plant is non toxic, so it is a good choice for households with pets and very young growers. I would recommend keeping a magnifying glass handy to really appreciate the curious tubercles and flowers of this plant. This is not an easy plant to find in the trade; to date, I have never found it in any of the local nurseries, and very few of the mail order nurseries which I have dealt with over the years have carried it. Mesa Garden offers this form ( one with habitat data, another propagated from plants without habitat data). Plants may occasionally be offered through annual cactus and succulent society sales, and may occasionally be available through the International Succulent Introductions of the Huntington Botanical Gardens.

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