Haworthia cooperi v truncata - Cactus Club

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Haworthia cooperi v truncata

Plant of the Month > Species G to H

   The haworthias are a remarkably diverse group of rosette forming leaf succulents from the countries of South Africa, Nanibia, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Swaziland. All species are small growing, with the giants producing rosettes to just over about 6 inches across, although the majority of plants produce considerably smaller rosettes, usually to about two or three inches in diameter. Most of the species produce a very short stem, but in some species (including H. reinwardtii) the foliage is produced on long stems, which may grow to nearly 20 inches in length. Most plants will produce tight clusters of multiple rosettes, and some species are highly caespitose, eventually producing large mats containing hundreds of individual rosettes.  The foliage is often attractively marked and patterned; many species bear interesting textures, and ridges, providing additional interest for the grower.
     Approximately 100 species of haworthia are recognized; most species are fairly variable; a good number of species are subdivided into multiple varieties and forms. Additionally, plants in cultivation and in habitat will readily hybridize, so the total number of species, varieties, forms and hybrids is considerable. In habitat, plants typically grow in the partial shade of taller plants, and are better adapted to lower light levels than some other succulents which may grow in more exposed situations. Some species (including this plant) are said to grow with the greater portion of the leaves partially recessed below the soil, with only the windowed leaf tips exposed.

    Haworthia cooperi is a fast growing, clustering species with soft, fleshy foliage (the leaves have the feel of tiny, plump grapes). The species originates from the summer rainfall areas of Sumerset East, Cape Province, South Africa. It is closely related to Haworthia cymbiformis, H. mucornata , and H. marumiana, and, according to Wikipedia, it can be distinguished from these species by "...the slight bristley "awn" on the margins of the leaves of most varieties". Another interesting trait is the presence of an extremely fine filament at the leaf tips (a trait which is barely visible in this extreme closeup – other varieties show a more prevalent filament). Variety truncata is a generally smaller plant, my plant is just over in inch across, and may possible grow to a diameter of 2 inches, with shorter foliage, and more rounded leaf tips. This is a comparatively fast growing plant, adding additional leaves to each rosette annually. While it clusters, it adds additional offsets slowly, gradually increasing its size to fill a 3 to 4 inch pot.

   As in the species, the leaf tips are windowed, with translucent tissues which allow light to penetrate deeply into the interior of the foliage. The leaf tips are attractively patterned, with transitional zones marked with long alternating spires of transparent and pigmented zones. Strong directional lighting can help to highlight the windowed leaf tips of these plants.

     Tiny flowers are produced on short wiry scapes (to just a few inches on my plant). The flowers are tubular, to about 10 millimeters long, and to about 8 millimeters across. The petals and sepals united for most of the length of the floral tube. The strongly reflexed petals and sepals are greenish white, with green to brownish-green midstripes. While no one grows these plants for their flowers, don't pass up an opportunity to give them a close examination; despite their small size and rather dull coloring, I find the flowers of this species attractive, and well worth the effort to examine them under magnification.

   Haworthia cooperi and its varieties are easy to grow, and respond well to my general guidelines for growing cactus and other succulents. If you are in the habit of moving your plants outdoors to benefit from increased exposure to sunlight, and rainfall etc., it would be best to place this plant in dapple shade, or in an area where it will get morning to early afternoon sun. In my experience, the haworthias show evidence of stress when temperatures become very high (above the mid 90's). The softer leaved species seem to be a bit more sensitive to over-exposure to full sun, and in extreme cases, will show evidence of bleaching and scorching in their foliage. Some sources indicate that this plant and many other haworthias with windowed leaf tips grow partially buried in habitat, with only the leaf tips exposed to daylight: do not try to duplicate this in cultivation! Whenever potting or repotting haworthias, make sure that the foliage is above ground, and that no portion of the crown is buried, otherwise, the plant will be vulnerable to crown rot.

      The haworthias are tolerant of somewhat lower light levels than many other succulents, making them better choices for bright interior spaces, and their small size makes them well suited to windowsills and other small spaces. Their ease of care, attractive foliage, and compact size also makes the haworthias popular plants for succulent wreaths, and vertical gardens. Because they lack spines, and (to the best of my knowledge) are non-toxic, they are suitable for households with young children and inquisitive pets. Many species are readily available; even the big box nurseries will frequently include a selection of haworthias in their mixed selections of cacti and other succulents. This variety is frequently offered at a number of mail order nurseries, I acquired mine from Miles to Go, but I have also seen it offered at Bob Smoley's Gardenworld, and Mesa Garden.

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