When the management of greenhouse plants was in its infancy, when collections of exotics were neither so numerous nor so extensive as at present; not only succulents in general but those of the genus Aloe in particular were held in the highest repute both in Britain and on the continent. That was the Golden Age of succulent plants.
– Adrian Haworth. Aloe. 1804.
Haworthia is a genus of succulent plants endemic to Southern Africa, named after the British botanist Adrian Hardy Haworth. They generally resemble miniature Aloes and many contain leaf windows with glass-like translucent panels. Haworthias are the gems of the family Asphodelaceae and one of the most popular succulents.
For a long time, Haworthia was thought to belong to the Aloe family. Its class was reassigned in the early 1800’s as a more thorough breakdown of plant genera. In 2013, genetic studies further divide Haworthia into the three genera: Haworthia (42 species), Haworthiopsis (18 species) and Tulista (4 species).
While most succulents like full sun, Haworthias are more adapted in semi-shade conditions. They often grow under shrubby plants or rock overhands. In their native habitats, Haworthias are very hard to be found. Their population sizes are small. Often within several meters, tens to hundreds of individuals grow together. On the other hand, their population distributions are fragmented and the distances are often measured in kilometers. In a field trip searching for succulents, you are likely to see H. viscosa or H. cymbiformis. With good luck you may encounter H. arachnoidea. Other common species in cultivation like H. retusa can barely be found. So far the recognized Haworthia species mainly grow near cities or roads. There are certainly more yet to be discovered.
A wonderful feature of Haworthia is the great variation in the appearance. Textures and colors vary greatly among individuals and often display exceptionally attractive combinations. Growers carefully select parents and then hybridize to create more fascinating varieties. Though the children’s combinations of features can only be guessed, the results will seldom disappoint. The people who enjoy Haworthias have a true admiration for the beauty of each individual plant.