In Issue 31:


Issue 31

Half Mens of Namaqualand
Fred Gaumer
On the Dry Side Monterey Bay Area C&SS

Pots - Why Do You Use The Ones You Use?
By Sue Haffner
Fresno C&S

From Brazil: Uebelmannia
By Sue Haffner
Fresno C&S

Aloe Plicatilis: The Fan Aloe
by Chuck Staples
Mid-Iowa C&SS

``Crown of Thorns'' Euphorbia milii
by Chuck Staples
Mid-Iowa C&SS

People, Pets, Pests and Natural Pesticides
by Deborah Wisniewska-Jones
Cactus Factus Toronto C & S

Purchasing and Care of New Plants
By David Naylor
from The Cactus Factus (Ontario) Toronto C & S

Alooideae - Asphodelaceae And The Genera Thereof
By M.B. Bayer
Alsterworthia International Special Issue No 4


Half Mens of Namaqualand
by Fred Gaumer
On the Dry Side Monterey Bay Area C&SS

Pachypodium namaquanum is the most cactus like of the genus usually having a single tapering stem that will grow to about six feet in height. They will sometimes have more than one stem but it probably because of damage to the growing point. They are so fascinating a plant to have in a pot that I can only imagine what it is like to see them in the wild. They generally grow on the crest of hills where the surrounding vegetation is only a foot or two tall making them stand out in silhouette against the sky. With a round mass of leaves around the top, from a distance it resembles a human figure facing north, looking into the sun. The native Bushmen call them "Half Mens" possibly believing them to be their ancestor's spirits watching over their homeland. Namaqualand is a very arid area and these plants may extract some of the moisture they need to survive from fog rolling in from the South Atlantic and condensing on their spines.

Twenty years ago P. namaquanum plants and seeds were hard to come by and expensive. So rare in captivity that pollination and seed production caused loss of friendship and litigation for a few nurserymen. Lucky for them, "Real Mens" no longer carry firearms out West any more.

Cultivating these plants is very easy if you can provide them with plenty of light, not too much water during their growth period and no water when they drop their leaves usually in the Spring. Some plants will maintain a full set of leaves after other have dropped all of theirs. It seems odd to me that a plant would have a dormancy period that wouldn't last the entire Summer or hot season. But these plants will start leafing again in August or early September. They don't grow very fast but you can tell that some sort of growth is happening by looking at the skin and seeing the old silver skin stretching to expose the new green skin as the surface area of the skin becomes larger. I like to have them in a large enough pot to protect the spines from being damaged by accidental bumping from the side and also to protect other things from the stiff, long spines. They will start flowering, with a few flowers, when they are about six inches tall. As they become larger they will have a crown of many flowers around the growing point. This is a plant that you are going to have to have more than one of in your collection.


Pots - Why Do You Use The Ones You Use?
by Sue Haffner
Fresno C&S

Have you ever thought about why you use the pots you do for your plants? Here are some factors to consider:

Standard pot - this type is as tall as the diameter of the pot (4 inches across and 4 inches tall);

Azalea or ? pot - this is three quarters the height of the diameter (4 inches across and 3 inches high, for instance);

Bulb pan - this is one half the height of the diameter (4 inches across and only 2 inches high).

Many succulent growers prefer the azalea pot size, chiefly for aesthetic reasons - many specimen plants display better in such pots. The standard pot, especially for smaller plants, may taper too much and prove to be unstable. You run the risk of knocking over and damaging a prized plant. Watering is also affected by the type of pot used. When you pour water onto the surface of your pot, the taller the column of water and gravity will act longer and pull more water out of the pot. This is needed for aeration and for pulling excess salts and fertilizer out of the pot, rather than collecting on the soil surface.

To restate the watering situation: if you have two pots that hold the same volume of soil and one is tall and skinny and the other is short and wide, more water will remain in the soil of the shorter pot. You won't have to water as often, as the short pots don't dry out as fast.

The pot should be large enough to provide a comfortable finger width between the edge of the pot and the plant (spines included), for globular plants. Tall, columnar plants should have a pot whose diameter is about one half their heights. A cluster or clump of plants generally has a shallower root system than a single plant of the same diameter. It is also growing more laterally than vertically, so you should allow more space between the pot and plant.

Clay, plastic, or other materials? Well, clay pots, of course, allow water to evaporate out from all sides. Clay will also allow water in from all sides (such as by overhead spraying or from capillary matting). This exchange works to keep the roots cool, as well. Plastic keeps the soil wetter longer by allowing evaporation to occur only from the soil surface. Also, plastic pots stay free of salt build-up and algae growth longer than clay pots do.

Pots made of Styrofoam, glass, or glazed ceramics tend to act much like the plastic pots.

Pot colors? Dark colors absorb most of the light that hits them, while white or light colors reflect a lot of light. Algae may grow on the insides of white pots if they sit where they are hit by direct sunlight. If your plastic pots are subject to the vagaries of temperature throughout the year, they will deteriorate - grow brittle and crumble at your touch. Green pots seem to last longer than white pots.

Round or square? We have more aesthetic considerations here. If your plant is more-or-less round, put it in a round pot. Still, many succulents defy classification as to shape, which no doubt has led to the many free-form ``artist's'' pots you see used for specimen plants.

How about the drainage? We all know that it is possible to grow succulents in containers without drainage holes - because we've seen this in the collection of one of our members! Still, most of us use pots with holes. Most commercial plastic pots have large drainage holes, so large, in fact that your soil mix escapes through them. Some of us use pieces of paper towel, used clothes dryer sheets, squares of hosiery material, squares of window screening, etc., in the bottom of the pot to hold in the soil. The paper will eventually deteriorate, but, by then, the plant's root ball may have grown enough to hold the soil.

Top dressing: most succulent growers use gravel of various sizes and colors to top dress the soil in the pots. This can also keep a ``tippy'' plant supported; can keep the base of the plant drier, thus reducing the possibility of rot. Also, the gravel is decorative. Bear in mind that the top dressing also can make it difficult to judge whether the plant needs watering. Figure out a means whereby you can check the soil under the gravel.

Should you water newly repotted plants? The standard advice you read in all the books and articles is that you need to let your plant sit for several days to a week while any root damage that may have occurred will heal. Generally, the authors of these books are writing from climates unlike ours, where plants may be subject to extended periods of dark, cold, damp weather when they are in danger of attack by fungi. Some growers in our area water-in their newly repotted plants - just a bit, to settle the soil - and have never noticed any ill effects. You can decide for yourself which is the better course to take. Also, don't put a newly repotted plant directly out in the sun. Let it rest for awhile in bright shade.

Remember that there is no perfect system that works for everyone. Experiment a bit and develop your own best technique. Good luck!


From Brazil: Uebelmannia
by Sue Haffner
Fresno C&S

When uebelmannias first appeared in cultivation in the 1960s, they created a sensation. Swiss Nurseryman, Werner Uebelmann, imported the first plants; journal articles and pictures followed; plants became available only at astronomical prices. Since then, commercial nurseries have been able to propagate them en mass, pretty much satisfying the collector market.

A.F.H. Buining published the genus in 1967, naming it in honor of Uebelmann, who had long supported botanical expeditions to Brazil.

All uebelmannias found so far are native to the north central part of the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, about 150 miles inland from the coast. It's a frost-free area, with hot days, cool nights, and high humidity. Summer rainfall (Nov.-Jan.) is heavy. The soil in their habitat is open, well-drained quartzite sand, or even larger quartz chunks, with a low pH. While we tend to think of uebelmannias as globular plants, in habitat they can assume columnar form, growing to three feet tall.

Uebelmannias have an unusual epidermis. Looked at with a magnifying glass, it has a granular appearance and seems to be composed of a layer of clear or grayish scales. Some plants also have a whitish waxy coating both on the epidermis and on the spines.

While you sometimes find six or seven Uebelmannia species listed, the latest treatment of the genus, by Schulz and Machado, argues that there are only two, or three, at most: U. pectinifera, U. gummifera, and U. buiningii . They include flavispina with pectinifera and meninensis with gummifera. U. buiningii may also belong in the gummifera complex. They report that plants in habitat exhibit a great deal of variability


Aloe Plicatilis: The Fan Aloe
by Chuck Staples
Mid-Iowa C&SS

I love this plant with the smooth trunk bark and the flat leaves. Aloe plicatilis can grow from a tall shrub to a small tree in its natural habitat on rocky slopes in western Cape Province of South Africa. It can be grown in a pot for a good number of years and is a nice addition to one's collection of succulent plants.

With a few years of age the plant branches dichotomously (forked in two equal branches).


It has been suggested that this plant was first discovered in 1658 by Pieter Potter along the Roode Zands mountains in the Cape region of South Africa.

It wasn't until about 1695 that a Latin name was given to this plant by Heinrich Bernhard Oldenland (1663-1697) who was the master gardener and superintendent at the Dutch East India Company garden in the Cape Town region of South Africa -- and what a name it was -- Aloe africana arborescens montana non spinosa folio longissimo, plicatili, flore rubro. This name was first included in print in volume 2 of the book 'Hortus Amstelaedamensis' that was the primary work of Johannes Commelijn (1629-1692) and printed in 1701 by his nephew, Casparus Commelijn (1668-1731).

The long Latin descriptive name is now called a pre-Linnaeus name since it was used before Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) set up his simplified binomial (genus & specific epithet) system of naming plants in 1753.

Known early on as the 'Fan Aloe', C. Linnaeus gave this plant species the varietal name Aloe disticha var. plicatilis in 1753. It was upgraded to its current species name, Aloe plicatilis, in 1768 by Philip Miller (1691-1771).


``Crown of Thorns'' Euphorbia milii
by Chuck Staples
Mid-Iowa C&SS

Euphorbia milii was first described in 1826 by Charles Robert Alexandre Des Moulins (1798-1875). It is known by the common name, ``Crown of Thorns''.

For a time in the later half of the 1800s and early 1900s Euphorbia milii was known in many gardens as Euphorbia splendens as it was described in 1829 by Wenceslas Bojer (1797-1856). However, since it was decided that they were primarily the same species the older name, Euphorbia milii, has priority.

This species was discovered by M. le baren Milius about 1821 on Madagascar Island and named in his honor. Milius was a French governor and administrator on the Island of Reunion, a part of the Mascarene island group about 400 miles east of Madagascar.

Hermann Johannes Heinrich Jacobsen (1898-1978), in his ``A Handbook of Succulent Plants'' (1960 English edition, Volume 1), tells us that Euphorbia milii is strictly not a succulent plant but a spiny, xerophytic shrub which drops its leaves during an extensive dry period.

The varieties of this species are distinguished mostly by (1) the size and shape of the leaves, (2) the thickness of the stems and shoots, (3) the length of the spines, (4) the distance between each spine, and/or (5) the color of the cyathophylls. ``Cyathophylls?'' Yep, what you and I think of as flowers are called cyathophylls; not flowers at all. Most cyathophylls are red in color but can range from pink to yellow to whitish and some in 2-colors like the photo on this page that has pinkish edges fading into white toward the center.

Here are the varieties that are accepted in the 2002 Dicotyledons Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants, with Urs Eggli as editor. All generally have red cyathophylls unless otherwise indicated. Mada = Madagascar.

Euphorbia milii var.:

1 bevilaniensis - heavily-branched shrub to 1.5 m, 5 mm thick branches, leaves 3-4 cm inversely deltoid, spines 1-2 cm, southern Mada.

2 hislopii - robust shrub to 2 m, branches +- 2 cm , leaves 15x5 cm, spines 1-2 cm, cyathophylls 6x10 mm pink to red, central Mada.

3 longifolia - heavily-branched shrub from base to 1 m; drooping branches 2 cm, leaves linear 20x1 cm, spines slender 1.5 cm, cyathophylls yellow 3x5 mm, central Mada.

4 milii - heavily-branched shrub to 1.5 m, branches 1 cm, leaves lanceolate 4x2 cm, spines simple 1-2 cm , cyathophylls spreading, rounded 6x8 mm bright red or yellow, Mada.

5 roseana - shrub to 1 m, branches suberect, leaves lanceolate 9x2.5 cm, spines 13 mm, cyanthophylls 5x5 mm, whitish-yellow, southern to central Mada.

6 splendens - shrub to 2 m, branches 1 cm, leaves 5x2 cm, spines numerous & dense, cyathophylls brilliant red to yellowish, central Mada.

7 tananarivae - shrub to 2 m, branches 3 cm, leaves 10x4 cm, cyanthophylls 3x10 mm yellow with red margins, central Mada.

8 tenuispina - like var. milii but with thick stems, tuberous at base, spines very slender, southern Mada in mountains near Ihosy. 9 tulearensis - like var. milii but spines only 1 cm, cyathophylls vivid red, southwestern Mada near Toliara.

10 vulcanii - like var. milii but leaves 20x5 cm bluish-green, cyathophylls vivid red, southern to central Mada.

The actual descriptions of these varieties are much more technical but you should get a general idea from the above. Also keep in mind that colors of the cyathophylls vary some in each variety of Euphorbia milii.

The Peoples Democratic Republic of Malagasy (Madagascar) is an island about 1,000 miles long and 250 miles wide, and only about 300 miles from southern Africa. Euphorbia milii and all its varieties are all endemic to this island.

The experts have come out with a bunch of hybrids and/or cultivars of Euphorbia milii that are quite stunning. Some of the more spectacular ones come from Thailand.


Hardiness: Some Thoughts And Experiences
by Thomas Schwink
Mid-Iowa C&SS

Many things other than the minimum temperature itself also influence the ability of succulent plants to tolerate cold. These include the length of the cold period. A longer exposure to the cold can cause more damage than a shorter exposure time. Humidity can also be a factor with succulents, with more damage sometimes occurring when the humidity is higher. The condition of the plant can be very important, with dormant, shriveled plants being more resistant to cold than plump, actively growing ones. Sometimes plants in wetter soil are more damaged by cold than are ones in dryer soil.

In determining how much cold our plants have survived, the thermometer should be as close as possible to the plants. The official temperatures reported in the news media are often considerably higher or lower than the temperatures where the plants are. Most of us are familiar with the concept of microclimates. Temperatures and other climatic factors often vary considerably even between areas that are relatively close to one another.

Plants that are planted out are usually more tolerant of cold than are plants of the same species growing in pots. This difference is often due to the roots being more tender than the above-ground growth.

(Heat tolerance is also sometimes a factor in how well our plants do. Some plants that do better in partial shade are really damaged by the heat that they are exposed to when in full sunlight rather than by the amount of light. Information about heat tolerance is often hard to find. With some plants information about heat tolerance is readily available. In his book `The Genus Matucana' Rob Bregman tells on page 31 which species of this genus are considered cold-sensitive and which ones are considered heat-sensitive.)

I use as guidelines to hardiness the hardiness figures that are given in some seed and plant catalogs, especially the Mesa Garden catalogs. Hardiness information is also given in some books and other publications. This information needs to be viewed with some skepticism, especially that in British and other European publications. Many plants are more hardy in this country than in Europe, where climate is often rainier and more humid than where we live.

It is usually better to use some caution with the published hardiness figures. Sometimes under our conditions the plants are not as hardy as indicated by the published information. In very general terms, the hardiness figures given by Mesa Garden for cacti agree well with my observations on plants grown from their seeds. For me the cactus plants grown from their seeds are usually able to tolerate the temperatures indicated in their catalogs. With succulents other than cacti, however, the plants are often not able to tolerate temperatures as low as those indicated in the Mesa Garden catalogs.

A number of years ago I grew some plants of Escobaria missouriensis from seeds that were from plants capable of tolerating -25 degrees F. When these plants were large enough I planted them out in a bed near my hose. For several years they did well, but one winter the temperature got down to -27 in that location and about half of those plants froze to death. I potted the survivors and now bring them indoors each winter.

I now have just one cactus plant growing outdoors, a plant of the hardy native Opuntia humifusa. I have recently started some other hardy species from seed and will be planting them out this year. I have plants of Escobaria vivipara from Mesa Garden seeds collected at or near Santee, Nebraska. Temperatures at Santee are very similar to those at Indianola, Iowa, where I live, so these plants should be hardy here. The only difference that I could find between the climate of Santee and that of Indianola is that Indianola is wetter than Santee.

I also have young plants of Escobaria missouriensis native to Pennington County, South Dakota. I do not know where in Pennington County these seeds were collected, and in view of the considerable range of altitude in that county there is some question in my mind as to exactly how hardy these plants are. I will also be planting these out this year. I also have some newly germinated seedlings of Escobaria vivipara from Canadian seed and I would expect these to be hardy here unless our climate is too wet.


People, Pets, Pests and Natural Pesticides
by Deborah Wisniewska-Jones
Cactus Factus Toronto C & S Issue No 4 May 2004

Are you using a natural pesticide? Do you think it is perfectly safe for you, your family and pets? Well think again, some of these are more toxic than the synthetic pesticide Malathion. Here are a few natural pesticides that you may already be using in your garden or greenhouse:

The least toxic are: Neem and Sabadilla

Neem: Safest of the botanical pesticides. Usually available as an oil or dust. It has a bitter taste that repels bugs -- it disturbs their growth and development. Plants absorb it, so it protects for a few weeks after application. It works best on chewers like caterpillars and not suckers like aphids. It is extracted from seeds and other parts of the tropical neem tree (Azadirachia indica).

Sabadilla: Is one of the least toxic, but breathing in the dust can irritate the lungs. When applying wear a mask, keep children and pets indoors. The bugs it is used on are: chinch and stink bugs, caterpillars, pests on beans, cabbage, cucumbers, potatoes, turnips and squash. It is a stomach and nerve poison. It is made from the ground seeds of the sabadilla plant (Schoenocaulon officinale).

Relatively non-toxic: Ryania and Pyrethrum

Ryania: Relatively non-toxic but avoid ingestion and skin contact. On the other hand it is sometimes combined with more toxic rotenone and pyrethins. It is a slow-acting stomach and contact poison for caterpillars, leaf beetles and thrips, it's rather long lasting and doesn't have any affect on many good bugs. It is a powder made from the shrub Ryania speciosa. Pyrethrum: Pure pyrethrum/pyrethrins are fairly safe to people and pets but again synthetic chemicals or natural ones like rotenone or diatomaceous earth are added to beef it up so you must read the labels carefully. The natural chemicals repel and knock out insects, but for some bugs only for a short period of time. However pyrethrins break down in sunlight and moisture so they don't stick around for long. It is made from a ground-up type of chrysanthemum.

Moderately toxic: Rotenone

Rotenone: Hailed as harmless to the environment, which may be so but not to people and pets. Moderately toxic to humans, but new findings reveal constant exposure to rotenone can result in symptoms that mimic Parkinson's disease. In dogs studies have shown weight loss and negative effects on blood chemistry. Rotenone started out in South America as a fish poison made from ground roots of a local plant.

Questionable: Diatomaceous Earth (DE) and Boric Acid

Diatomaceous Earth: Is a powder made from ground-up shells of ancient microscopic sea creatures, the supertiny sharp bits are too small to harm people or pets but cut into the bodies of insects and let all their fluids out. But there are different types of diatomaceous earth: one is for horticultural use on plants, another is for long-term storage of packaged food products and another is used in swimming pool filters. Do not use the pool diatomaceous earth in your garden or greenhouse, it has been heat-treated to make the sharp bits larger and isn't safe to spread around. Horticultural diatomaceous earth (as long as nothing toxic has been added) should be fine to use, but don't breathe it -- the dust can irritate. It is effective against a lot of bugs including ants, aphids, earwigs, flies, leafhoppers, spider mites, slugs and snails. It washes off in rain though so must be reapplied.

Boric Acid: It is used on ants, roaches, weevils and other insects and, though it seems harmless enough, care should be taken when using it. There have been reports of children dying after eating boric acid. In studies, ingestion by dogs of plain borax resulted in blood and metabolism disorders as well as negative effects on the testes, endocrine system, brain weight, and various organs and glands. Yet it is advertised as having little toxicity!

So when shopping for a natural pesticide read the label carefully to see what insects it kills, what is in it and the precautions to take when using it otherwise this could be your obituary:

Mrs. Jones died peacefully today in her greenhouse after inhaling copious amounts of a "natural pesticide". (Friends said her plants never looked so good.) She leaves behind five small dogs, seven cats of similar size, a medium size greenhouse full of cacti and other succulent plants, a very big old horse and his companion, a miniature donkey, and one regular-size husband.

When Mr. Jones was asked how he planned to cope with his loss, he said he would console himself during the next twelve days by digging several small holes in the backyard. On day thirteen he would dig a medium size pit behind the greenhouse. On day 14 he would dig a large pit in the field by the barn. Finally, on day fifteen he would resume his position on the couch with clicker in hand knowing he could now rest in peace.

References on natural pesticides: The Gardener's Dog -- Dogs in Canada, April 2004, McQuade, Mary Fran. Organic Gardening Products


Purchasing and Care of New Plants
By David Naylor
from The Cactus Factus (Ontario)

This is the time of year when many of you are adding to your plant collection. So I thought it would be a good time to discuss a few of the things to be aware of and to look for when acquiring new plants.

Is it etiolating? What does "etiolating" mean? A plant is etiolating when it is growing too fast for the amount of light it is receiving. This causes it to stretch out and become a yellowish-green. Plants that should be squat or globular become pyramids or cones. This is often a result of growth while in transit or being in a low-light location in the store. This poor growth cannot be corrected and will result in a "neck" appearance as the top regains proper growth form when in your care. Usually the only solution to this is to cut the plant at the neck into two pieces, re-root the top half and retain the bottom half for offset production.

Is it grafted? So what!? Plants grafted on Hylocereus stock - a 3-sided stem - usually do not last long in our climate. The Hylocereus base needs to be kept moist and growing well in warm temperatures at all times. If the scion, the grafted plant, lacks chlorophyll and has no green pigmentation then it must be grafted in order for it to survive. Another good reason to graft is for a crest that will grow down around the stock with age, but for these you need to ensure that the stock is healthy and thick enough to last for long time otherwise you'll need to re-graft the scion. If the plant doesn't need to be grafted and there appears to be no reason for it to be so, then perhaps you should view it with a consideration to de-graft it at some future date or to use it for offset production.

Is it a "lollipop"? Plants grafted on Pereskiopsis - a pencil-like stem - are humorously referred to as lollipops. These plants are usually grafted when very small seedlings and are done so to speed up their growth. This is not considered to be a long-term graft and you will need to either de- graft the scion and root it or re-graft it onto a stock more suitable for long-term growth.

Check for physical damage. Are there scars, missing spine clusters, broken spines, missing branches, distorted growth? Do these matter to you? If you would like to enter this plant into a judged show then damage could be a problem. If it's low down on the plant it could grow underneath with age, but any serious damage near the top of the plant is likely to remain visible for ever and may affect its chances of winning a show ribbon.

Does it have lots of nice white wool? Sometimes plants are so infested with mealy bugs that their white wooly cocoons or nests appear to be a normal part of the plant. Red spider mites cause browning near the growing point and the new growth contrasts greatly against it. Do study the plant closely and know if you are purchasing bugs along with it. You may still wish to get it if the plant is one that's unobtainable without the bugs. Just ensure that when you get it home you immediately discard the pot and all soil mix, and after cleaning off the bugs and repotting, keep the plant isolated well away from your collection for a few weeks until you're absolutely sure there aren't more bugs appearing from their hiding places. Often plants in stores have shrunken due to lack of watering and bugs may be between ribs that are now compressed together or down deep in the centre of a rosette. Once this plant is watered and growing the ribs or leaves spread apart more and further bugs may be visible. Actually it's recommended that all new plants get a period of isolation and checking for bugs before being mixed in with the rest of your collection.

Are the flowers glued on? Many cactus plants in our stores have straw flowers glued onto them. Sometimes it's possible to obtain a nice species this way that otherwise may not be available. But realize that removal of the straw flower(s) and glue may well remove spine clusters and the hot glue could have caused damage to the plant's epidermis. If it's a small plant and the damage will grow out of sight in time then it may not matter. The plant could also be used for vegetative propagation by cutting off its top thereby causing it to branch and produce perfect offsets.

Is the soil mix or top dressing of small pebbles glued in place? Lately many plants in the stores, especially dish gardens, have something sprayed onto the surface to hold everything in place. I don't know if this stuff is supposed to wash away in time with periodic watering, but I've purchased a few dish gardens because they contained something I wanted and have had to chisel the plants out of the container! In one instance this resulted in breaking the nice dish - that plant I wanted became an expensive one!

What mix is in the pot? Does it contain any nutrients? You need to know the answer to these questions in order to know how to water and fertilize it. Most commercial plants obtained in this part of Canada are planted in a peat-based soilless mix which may or may not contain timed- release fertilizer pellets - likely not. Timed-release, aka controlled-release fertilizer pellets are seen as little balls in the soil mix. They release fertilizer over time based on moisture and temperature. If the mix doesn't contain fertilizer (or other nutrients) and you water with plain water then the plant will be starving. At the other extreme, if it does contain fertilizer and you water with a fertilizer solution then this will likely cause it to etiolate as the forced rapid growth will not get enough light to keep it compact. So for all new acquisitions it is recommended that you unpot the plant and check its roots for bugs, etc., clean off the old mix, trim off any dying or dead roots and replant in your own known mix. As always, be cautious and permit any damaged or cut roots to heal for a day or two and callus before you repot. Even then I still prefer to repot into dry soil and not water for a week. The only exception to the above, for me, would be a Melocactus that already has a cephalium - I've lost too many of them after disturbing their roots and now only repot them when there is no other choice, and I try to maintain the root ball complete with the old soil mix.

David Naylor, Halton Hills, Ontario, Canada.
Web page:


Alooideae - Asphodelaceae And The Genera Thereof
by M.B. Bayer
Alsterworthia International Special Issue No 4

My fascination with Haworthia has presented me with many problems in the way the genera in the Alooideae have been discussed, appraised and modified in and subsequent to G.D. Rowley's analysis (1967). Parr (1971) coalesced Astroloba, Haworthia and Poellnitzia and I refuted this in 1972 when I also wrote a rebuttal of Rowley's paper. My remarks did not deter Mrs Obermeyer-Mauve (1973) following and accepting Parr, nor in adding Chortolirion to Haworthia. Rowley (1976) quite pragmatically discussed the Aloid genera, but in 1980 suggested the incorporation of Poellnitzia in Aloe. He implemented this proposal in 1981 and promoted it again in 1985. Smith and van Wyk (1991) published a cladistic analysis of the Alooideae which I felt was unacceptable because of the fallacious character states and sets that were used there. Despite that paper and at least four others (Smith 1991, 1994, 1995; Smith & van Wyk 1992) generally supporting the unispecific status of Poellnitzia, Manning and Smith (2000) incorporated the genus in Astroloba.

My objection to this manipulation of the genera is that the supporting arguments have been incorrect and that it essentially has not addressed or considered what I perceived to be the stumbling block to arriving at a better delimitation of the genera in the sub-family. This is the relationship within the genus Haworthia where it is quite evident to me that it comprises three distinct sets of species (the subgenera of Bayer ex Uitewaal). The floral and morphological differences for those three sets are absolute, and I am sure will need to be seen so in any way in which Aloe is configured. This is because the floral similarities within those subgenera are so minimal. I consider these floral differences to be as dramatic for genus delimitation as any of the character states covered in Rowley's (1967) analysis. It would alarm me if the result of a DNA study produced any other result. The sets also appear to me to be ``behaviourally'' different and with this consideration the genera (even if unispecific) Poellnitzia, Chortolirion, Astroloba are of similar status. This is not to imply that I do not recognise the problems with many other oddities in the Alooideae which require re-evaluation of the generic arrangement.

Adam Harrower of NBI asked me to identify an Haworthia he had collected near the Potberg (cf. H. heidelbergensis). In view of his interest I asked him to lookout for H. limifolia on a trip he was to undertake to the eastern Transvaal. On his return he presented to me a plant he took to be that species. It was in fact Chortolirion angolense. However, he produced photographs of another species at which I exclaimed ``This is a new genus''. Here I recognise the irony of this reaction when the generic arrangement in Aloe is so questionable.

The plant that Harrower collected has thin, slender, spineless, hyacynthoid leaves (figs.1-2) with very pronounced bulbous bases. There seem to be few accumulated dry bulb scales as in Chortolirion and the plants have not displayed deciduousness as does that species. The blades of the older leaves dehisce leaving fleshy bulbous bases and these are spirally arranged in the lowest order of the Fibonacci series viz. 2, 3 or 5 (fig.2). The roots seem rather sparse and are the yellowish colour of Aloe. The flower intrigues me more (figs 3 & 4). The free terminal portions of the flower are not channelled but are flared in the style of the sub-genus Haworthia. The midribs of the inner petals remain exposed and the margins of the outer petals adhere close to the mid-rib of the inner. This is the case in the subgenus Hexangulares and Chortolirion, as well as in this ``new genus''. The lower petals are more undershot than is the case in either the Hexangulares or subgenus Haworthia.

The geographical location is the high-lying escarpment between the ranges of the species H. koelmaniorum and H. limifolia of the Haworthia subgenus Hexangulares.

Why I have stated so categorically that this is a ``new genus'' is largely because of the historical (mal)treatment of the genera of Alooideae and the failure of students and commentators of Haworthia to exhibit any rational species concept. Such a concept appears to be missing for the genera as well. These shortcomings, coupled with the name changes which would ensue, have discouraged me from ever trying to formalise three distinct genera for Haworthia. What has troubled me in recent times is the emerging belief that molecular study will provide the basis for a real and irrefutable phylogenetic classification. We have now a paper published in Taxon 52:193 (2003) (see reprint pages 6-21) by Treutlein et al which will enable one to see to what extent these expectations are being met.

What strikes me immediately about the paper is firstly a statement in the abstract, and secondly the unfortunate selection of study material. The abstract summarises the results of the work done and this is: ``The current taxonomic system does not reflect the phylogenetic affinities and relationships among the succulent genera Aloe, Chortolirion, Gasteria, Haworthia and Poellnitzia.'' I find this extraordinary as it has never occurred to me that it did, and I would have expected this sentence to be worded in such a way as to form a key question to be answered by the study rather than as a conclusion. Similarly Treutlein's closing paragraphs of his discussion should have been used as key questions to be answered by the study and not have been derived from it. One sentence reads "complete sampling..needed".

The selection of material I take to be somewhat irresponsible given the past history of classification of the group and the literature. I would have expected some kind of predictive approach to the selection of material. The inclusion of unknown hybrids such as H. ryderiana, H. kewensis, and H. icosiphylla can tell us nothing. Ignorance of the actual taxonomic position of H. geraldii is similarly curious. The material is virtually entirely ex hortus and given my experience with identification, even voucher specimens are hardly likely give such material much credibility. I do think more thought and consideration should have been given to the species used in relation to the problems they present to their classification.

Putting these considerations aside, I would comment as follows on the results as presented primarily in Treutlein et al's fig 4. It does tell me what I had supposed i.e. subgenus Haworthia is very different from the other two subgenera of Haworthia. BUT H. geraldii (i.e. retusa) is grouped with H. attenuata and H. glauca and close to Gasteria! It is a result which does not make sense. The true H. geraldii is H. retusa and that is arguably an ecotype of H. turgida as much as it is a discrete species. We could indeed just be seeing - in Treutlein's own words - a "gene tree". Of course genes that can be sampled in the different types of DNA analysis are only another data set, and are not necessarily responsible for the morphology that we can see. Nevertheless it is equally true that, say, observed floral morphology may be the product of interplay of far more genetic material than those analyses entertain.

The inclusion of the unknown hybrids just introduces unnecessary tension or clutter or inaccuracies into the cladograms. H. kewensis may have female parentage as H. subgenus Hexangulares, and H. ryderiana similarly subgenus Haworthia, to explain their position in the cladogram. Astroworthia bicarinata/skinneri is the hybrid H. pumila x A. corrugata(muricata!) so it is not surprising that it comes out with that species.

What is significant is that Chortolirion comes out with the grass aloes, thus showing that the Hexangulares flower may be homoplasious (i.e.. having evolved more than once). It would surprise me for a structure as complex as the flower to be so. Please note that Treutlein is wrong in saying Uitewaal divided Haworthia into two groups and that the "former including the subg. Haworthia and subgenus Robsutipedunculares". Uitewaal divided the group Hexangulares into Gracilipedunculatae and Robustipedunculatae. The way this is has been repeated in the closing paragraph of Uitewaal's paper has confounded Treutlein, who goes on to say ``This division is strongly supported by...''. This is not true. He has no Robustipedunculares in his analysis apart from the DNA (cytoplasmic) in the hybrid Astroworthia. It is thus not surprising that it comes out in the ``heterogenous group'' that includes Aloe aristata, Gasteria, Poellnitzia, Astroloba and H. retusa (``geraldii'') and its position here is very dubious.

Dr. Manning (personal communication) feels that the results vindicate the treatment he and Smith gave Poellnitzia. I must state that he is quite correct on the point of bird pollination and it has been shown that sunbirds do pollinate Microloma. But I cannot agree that Poellnitzia is unequivocally Astroloba. In Treutlein's fig.3, Poellnitzia could be with either Gasteria or Astroloba, with Aloe aristata as a wild card nearer to Astroloba than is Poellnitzia (one needs to look at distribution and variability of Aloe aristata to know that something is not kosher here). In fig.4 Poellnitzia collapses below Astroloba as does Aloe aristata and the cladogram shows no ``bootstrap values'' to substantiate an opinion. Would one argue that Aloe aristata then also belongs in Astroloba?

As there is no member of the Robustipedunculares in the analysis and one can only wonder what a better species representation would have done to the cladogram. It is important that Chortolirion is seen to group with the ``grass'' aloes. The flower is definitely Hexangulareoid whereas the bulbous structure is replicated in Aloe buetneri as well as in a few of the ``grass'' aloes. My opinion regarding the Harrower ``new genus'' is that it is in fact discrete and introduces an entirely new dimension to the discussion.

Something should also be said about cladograms. The binomial system is essentially built on the concept of dichotomous branching. The fact of the matter is that in any two-dimensional cladogram which is used to depict relationships, the one axis will represent time and the other two-dimensional space if one considers that species, like any other phenomenon in creation, are spread in space (they change with time). Therefore a two-dimensional diagram is very restricting and leads, for example, to statements such as ``Poellnitzia is nested in Astroloba''. To think that a statistical bootstrap value will give a true measure of that distance in a two-dimensional array may be wishful thinking.

After seeing this Treutlein paper I am happier with the way in which the existing classification meets my needs for identification and communication and I do not think the word ``merely'' used by Treutlein in this connection is appropriate. Whatever high-grounded attitudes now seem to prevail that DNA studies give a new and correct dimension to phylogeny as the intent of classification, my contention is that this has always been the aim even in the most simplistic morphological studies. Classification is a prime function in zoology as well and there has never been any doubt that phylogeny was the prime aim of the classification. The only reason it seems to be obscure in botany is the absence of good archaeological or fossil evidence and the problem of determining homologies in a muscle and nerve free organelle.

Dr Manning kindly made this comment among others which I may not be doing justice to:- ``Clearly there are just two alternatives IF one wants to define genera in phylogenetic terms: lump everything into Aloe or split Aloe up into several other genera, each corresponding to one of the monophyletic branches that are revealed by the analysis. The latter treatment is confounded by a) incomplete sampling within Aloe and b) probable lack of good characters by which these segregate genera could be recognised''. I would have omitted ``within Aloe''

Treutlein et al make another statement... ``The further the status quo departs from reality, the more difficult it will be to integrate practice and theory''. This seems to be a twist of words. I think it should read ``The further theory departs from practise the more difficult it will be to integrate the status quo with reality''? Again that is the problem that should have been addressed in the preliminary approach to the study. The status quo by definition cannot depart from anything.

To close, I need to say something about definitions. I have already made several statements about the absence of definition at species level where I still find resistance among students of Haworthia (if not wider). It is simply a fact that classification is a process of specifying so that one can generalise about a set of some kind. In dealing with Haworthia, I experience the group as three sets, and as stated above, these sets relate to the present classification as I have already described. The current generic classification expresses the experience of collective experience of all previous writers and researchers in the field. It has an historic value and an embedded ``truth'' of some kind; or, if the classification process has credibility, it should have and it should be respected accordingly. The definition of genus quite obviously has to be linked to that of species - systems of species which can be shown to be related sets in respect of morphology (physiology), genetics and geographical considerations. I contend that this has always been an unspoken aim and intent of classification and it is wrong to suggest now that it is absent from existing classifications. In my experience it is/was always seen to be the ideal that classification should reflect phylogeny. In doing so it would also reflect morphological/physiological, genetic and behavioural characters that lead to understanding. This is what I wrote in Asklepios 77:6 (1999) ``... understanding of what it really means to be human''. If we are pursuing knowledge for any other purpose it may be that we are on an ego-trip. To maintain that floral structure is very limiting in the way it has largely driven classification is correct to a degree. I think it is wrong to make the implication that floral structure is driven by less characters than, say, those nucleotide sequences of the Treutlein analysis.

Touching on the ``behaviour'' aspect - I think Poellnitzia is unique. The Robustipedunculares and Astroloba possibly could not maintain their integrity in each others' company viz. hybridisation between members where they co-occur. They complement each other geographically. Hexangulares maintains integrity wherever and with whatever it grows except with its own members. Subgenus Haworthia similarly always maintains integrity except with own members and presents a degree of plasticity far greater than any complementary set. Poellnitzia maintains its own integrity and is extraordinarily invariable in the close company of Gasteria, Robustipedunculares, and subg. Haworthia. Hexangulares and Robustipedunculares occupy quite different territories and virtually do not meet at all.


Dr J.C. Manning, Compton Herbarium, Kirstenbosch responded in very kind manner to my criticisms in Bayer 2003, and was most helpful in obtaining hard-copy of the Treutlein publication, as well as in interpreting the DNA methodology for me for the purposes of this paper. In having written this, I do not dispute his need for a pure phylogenetic model. I am simply trying to put a case based on my practical experience and knowledge of the plants concerned, hoping that the two poles will eventually meet in a functional way. Paul Forster of the Queensland Herbarium and Steve Hammer of California were kind enough to comment on, and edit, drafts of this article.

Literature cited:-

Bayer, M.B. (1999). Is classification science or art. Asklepios 77:3.

Bayer, M.B. (1972). Re-instatement of the genera Astroloba and Poellnitzia. Natl. Cact. Succ. J. 27:77.

Bayer, M.B. (2003). Classification with purpose. Alsterworthia International. Special Issue No. 3.

Manning, J.C. & Smith, G.F.S. (2000) Asphodelaceae: Alooideae. The genus Poellnitzia included in Astroloba. Bothalia 30:53.

Obermeyer-Mauve, A.A. (1973). Liliaceae, Aloe, Chamaealoe, Haworthia, Astroloba, Poellnitzia and Chortolirion. Bothalia 11:119.

Parr, C.J. (1971). Revision of the genus Astroloba. Bull.Afr. Succ.Plant Soc. 6:145.Rowley, G.D. (1967). A numerical survey of the genera of Aloineae. Natl. Cact. Succ. J. 22:71.

Rowley, G.D. (1976). Generic Concepts in the Aloineae. Part 1. Natl.Cact.Succ.J. 31:26.

Rowley, G.D. (1981). Re-name that succulent. Cact. Succ. J. Gt. Brit. 43:2.

Rowley, G.D. (1985). The Haworthia drawings of J.T. Bates. The Succulent Plant Trust, Essex.

Smith, G.F.S. (1991). Generic relationships in the Alooideae (Asphodelaceae). Taxon 40:557.

Smith, G.F.S. (1994). Taxonomic history of Poellnitzia Uitew., a unispecific genus of Alooideae (Asphodelaceae). Haseltonia 2:74.

Smith, G.F.S. (1995). FSA contributions 3: Asphodelaceae/Aloaceae, 1028010 Pollntzia. Bothalia 25:35.

Smith, G.F.S. & van Wyk, A.E. (1992). Pollen morphology of the monotypic genus Poellnitzia rubriflora (Alooidea: Asphodelaceae). S. Afr. J. Bot. 58:90.

Treutlein, J., Smith, G.F.S., van Wyk, B.E. & Wink, W. (2003). Phylogenetic relationships in Asphodelaceae (Alooideae) inferred from chloroplast DNA sequences (rbcl, matK) and from genomic finger-printing (ISSR). Taxon 52:193.

From (not by): Harry Mays
Editor, Alsterworthia International.
EU agent for the ISI.
World agent for Haworthia Study, Japanese journal