Our Plants

September Plant Highlight: Haworthia truncata

by Brian Kemble
H. truncata foliage   H. truncata flowers

One of the strange and wonderful oddities of the botanical world is the phenomenon of “windowed” leaves, in which a succulent leaf has a translucent area at the end which admits light.  Thus a leaf which is buried in the soil can receive the sunlight necessary for photosynthesis from the inside, transmitted from the “window” through the clear juicy inner tissue of the leaf to the green outer layer.  Being hunkered down in the soil offers the plant protection from desiccation and from browsing by animals.  It is interesting to note that this intriguing syndrome is especially prevalent in South Africa, where it has arisen in several different lineages, including the genus Haworthia.

There are many species of Haworthia with windowed leaves, and one of these is Haworthia truncata, so named because its leaves look as though they had been cut off, or truncated.  The leaves are arranged in a fan, with their flat translucent ends flush to the ground, or slightly raised above it.  In cultivation, this species is often grown raised up higher, so that the dark green sides are fully visible.

H. truncata is native to the Little Karoo area of South Africa, a little inland from the south coast.  This region is dry, but not a real desert, and it receives some rain in winter as well as some in summer.  Plants can endure some frost, but not a hard freeze of any duration.  They flower during the summer months, though it must be admitted that the flowers are certainly not showy.  The slender flower stalks are usually a foot or less high, bearing small white flowers striped with grayish-green.  

Text and Photos by Brian Kemble

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The mission of the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Inc. is to preserve this exceptional example of garden design and to continue to develop its collection of water-conserving plants for the education and enjoyment of the public.
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We are celebrating Garden Founder Ruth Bancroft's 100th year throughout 2009. If you would like to get involved in this historic milestone, you can help by contributing to the Centennial Fund or by attending on of our many special events this year.
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