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Haworthia decipiens
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Distribution: Africa: South Africa: Western Cape:


Haworthia decipiens - Dr Karl von poellnitz,

Haworthia decipiens has a wide distribution in the Great Karoo ranging from the vicinity of Prince Albert eastwards to Willowmore, Steytlerville and beyond.

There is some morphological variation in its distribution range but mostly the plants are recognized by their rather flat and broad leaves with translucent markings and a rather unobtrusive keel. Also the bristles or teeth are mostly on the side of the leaves (avoiding or only sparsely on the back). The leaves are light green, somewhat fleshy and the flowering time is in spring. The typical plants are easily distinguised from the Haworthia arachnoidea aggregate (including Haworthia cangoensis from Oudtshoorn) that have more lanceolate leaves and usually have more crowded spines and are darker green. Needless to say that exceptions are to be expected.

Numerous soft leaved arachnoidea/decipiens like plants are found over this area that are sometimes regarded as varieties or forms of decipiens. Some of these are probably related to Haworthia decipiens but many of these are likely closer to the Haworthia arachnoidea aggregate, especially those that have relatively thin, lanceolate leaves and teeth on the leaf keel. These tend to flower at a similar time as Haworthia arachnoidea, have more crowded bristles on the leaves and are probably related to the latter despite having translucent areas on the leaves.

I personally know the more typical plants from the Prince Albert area and have also seen very similar plants from Beervlei Dam. The plants from here are mostly found on the southern slopes of hillsides, but also on minor elevations with a northern or other inclination. They prefer a stony habitat and are normally sheltered by bushes. To the west the plants grade into Haworthia lockwoodii which in turn seems to grade southerwards over the Swartberg into Haworthia sakai (mucronata). Similar to Haworthia sakai, Haworthia decipiens grows in more than one type of habitat - from in-between ferricrete stones to quartz and shale.

09 March 2014:

I include here pictures from Gerhard Marx of a form he discovered near the top of the Swartberg in fynbos vegetation some time ago. I shall refer to this plant as Haworthia decipiens 'Swartbergensis' for now until such time as its taxonomic status has settled.

The leaves have more hairs than the type form and are also notably keeled. The original description of Haworthia decipiens was based on plants from Prince Albert. It is assumed that those plant came from areas lower down below the Swartberg mountain range which grow in Karoo-succulent vegetation.

The plants may perhaps represent an early link that eventually grades into Haworthia calitzensis which inits turn grades into Haworthia sakai.

Another soft leaved Haworthia is also found in the area that may have an association with Haworthia decipiens or perhaps Haworthia arachnoidea.

06 April 2014,

Haworthia decipiens 'fortuita'.

I file this rather attractive Haworthia under decipiens for now until more certainty is obtained.

Haworthia decipiens 'fortuita' was accidentaly discovered in Bosluiskloof by Gerhard Marx while he and Dr. Gerrit Visser were looking for a dark Gasteria related to Gasteria bayeri some time ago. Bosluiskloof in situated to the west of Gamka Dam just north of the Swartberg,

This is another Haworthia find that adds to the confusion in separating Haworthia decipiens and Haworthia arachnoidea clearly. The plant could perhaps be filed under the Arachnoidea aggregate as some analogues of Haworthia jouberti (an arachnoidea ally) do occur on the southern side of the Swartberg, plants with translucent leaves that seem to grade into Haworthia arachnoidea.

This plant flowers in summer, a little later than the flowering time of Haworthia arachnoidea while Haworthia decipiens flowers during spring. The flowering time of Haworthia decipiens is not stable however as later flowering forms are found to the east of Prince Albert, but not as late as this one. Haworthia decipiens grades into forms that start to represent Haworthia lockwoodii around the Gamka Dam area. Since the Haworthia 'fortuita' is found even further to the west, one is likely to associate it more with Haworthia arachnoidea despite its leaf translucence.

Considering the uncertainty, Haworthia fortuita as a separate species would stabilize its name taxonomically and further arguments could be done on an Aggregate level. I myself have reservations about this approach as it may well lead to a massive number of species names and there is also a prominent segment in the scientific community that do not go along with this. On the other hand: If we do follow a forced pseudo-orderly lumping approach in this uncertain genus we may well end up with less than half of Haworthia properly named and the rest shoved under the carpet because of the utter confusion they cause, an annoyance that we would rather be rid of... What would be the use of that ? Many different names would at least highlight the diversity in nature, aid the goals of conservation as well as create a clearer and more stable environment for communication, now and in the future. To me the latter argument wins.


Haworthia decipiens Haworthia decipiens Haworthia decipiens Haworthia decipiens
Habitat west of Prince Albert. The plants are not uncommon here growing on minor elevations or the lower mountain slopes. They to however form only small colonies here and there. West of Prince Albert. West of Prince Albert. West of Prince Albert.
Haworthia decipiens Haworthia decipiens Haworthia decipiens Haworthia decipiens
West of Prince Albert. West of Prince Albert with seed in early November. West of Prince Albert. The Haworthia decipiens 'minor' form from Kamferspoort.
Haworthia decipiens Haworthia decipiens Haworthia decipiens Haworthia decipiens
West of Klipplaat. A large form from Steytlerville. Haworthia decipiens 'Swartbergensis' habitat. Haworthia decipiens 'Swartbergensis' in habitat.
Haworthia decipiens Haworthia decipiens Haworthia decipiens Haworthia decipiens
Haworthia decipiens 'Swartbergensis'. Haworthia decipiens 'fortuita' in habitat in Bosluiskloof. Haworthia decipiens 'fortuita'. Haworthia decipiens 'fortuita'. A cultivated plant in the collection of Gerhard Marx.



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