Thursday, 1 June 2017

In Flower: Haworthia pygmaea

Haworthia pygmaea

Living across southern Africa is a large group (150+ species) of mostly small, rosette forming succulent plants in the genus Haworthia. Like their relatives the Aloes they are leaf succulents, storing water over the long dry season in fleshy leaves. Currently in flower in my conservatory is one of the smaller species, Haworthia pygmaea.

The distinctive leaves of H.pygmaea leave the upper surface of the rosette flat with the ground surface, presumably a protection against grazing, or possibly fire damage. To keep the plant deep in the ground the roots are contractile, pulling the plant down into the ground for protection. As with many plants with a similar growth habit the upper surface of the leaves are translucent, allowing light to penetrate deep into the leaves to allow photosynthesis.

Haworthias tend to grow in shaded areas such as near boulders or larger plants, and in cultivation they are prone to scorching if exposed to full sun. The diversity of rainfall patterns, rock types, and other variables is part of what makes southern Africa a global centre for diversity of succulent plants of many families, and many species have very limited distributions in the wild. H.pygmaea is found in a small area near Mossel Bay in the Eastern Cape, growing on quartz outcrops. It is well established in cultivation and is propagated from detached rosettes or from seed.
H.pygmaea inflorescence

Unlike the mostly sunbird-pollinated Aloe species, Haworthias are insect pollinated. The inflorescence is about 30cm tall with a set of greenish-white, tubular flowers.Plants are mostly self-sterile and require pollen from an unrelated plant to set seed. Insect pollinators appear to be solitary bees or bee-flies for the most part.

(images my own)

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