Haworthiopsis tessellata (formerly Haworthia) was first introduced into cultivation in 1822 by James Bowie, an English plant hunter in the employ of Kew Gardens, for whom the genus Bowiea is named. It was not described until several years later and no type locality was recorded.
It often puzzles me why we do not see more of tessellata, perhaps it is seen as too easy, too common, not glamorous enough. Certainly it is one of the most widespread Haworthia in habitat, growing right across South Africa from the Eastern Cape, across and up into Namibia.
As a result of this extreme range the plants can be very variable, which in the past resulted in many names, examples of which still exist on plants sold today despite the fact that all have been reduced to synonymity with tessellata by Bayer, a situation which most in the field accept. For interest’s sake many of my plants still bear their old names, particularly if they have no additional location data or collection numbers.
Not only are they variable but they are also extremely adaptable, equally happy filling crevices in rocks as growing in more open areas under the shade of shrubs, clumping up by way of normal offsets or stolons (stems that grow below the surface before they root and send up a new rosette – each stolon can do this numerous times along its length).
In captivity they are equally adaptable and are usually prolific with stolons sneaking out of the holes in the bottom of pots. So much so lifting an unchecked plant will often reveal a ring of offsets around the bottom of the pot. But adaptable as they are they can be scorched as can be evidenced in some of my pictures as a result of moving them to a higher exposed shelf in early spring, a harsh lesson learnt and light shading is now maintained even in spring.
They seem to grow in most free draining mixes I have thrown them in but I get the feeling they are happiest with a measure of organic matter rather than the pure mineral mixes some Haworthia seem to prefer. They grow in the summer rainfall regions so a July/August rest (in the northern hemisphere) may be beneficial although I am not totally convinced that it makes a huge difference.
So propagation! Well as a rule you don’t propagate tessellata, it, as mentioned earlier, propagates itself quickly filling pots top and bottom. Of course you can be certain that some of the most attractive plants like Witch Hazel Garden’s plant illustrated are the exception to the rule. Offsets are easily separated and grown on. Seed propagation is not difficult but given the prolific nature of offsetting it’s not really worth it with any but the slowest unless you are planning on producing cultivars or hybrids. I cannot comment on leaf propagation as I have never tried with these.
It does surprise me that there are not more tessellata cultivars about, most people know of ‘Fang’, which I don’t have but that seems about it, I am sure there must be more, but they seem conspicuous by their absence in publications. As for hybrids the few I have from fairly well known sources are a bit uninspiring, so I think there is a bit of room for improvement in both areas, something I may have ago at myself when (or if) I have a bit more free time.
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