Faucaria subintegra L.Bolus
Common names: Tyolomnqa tiger-jaw (Eng.); tierbekvygie (Afr.)
Faucaria subintegra’s innocuous teeth makes it a wonderful and unusual member of the genus, with a dense, clump-forming habit giving almost a knobby appearance, and showy, golden, autumn flowers.
Fig. 1. Faucaria subintegra in the collections nursery, Kirstenbosch NBG.
Faucaria subintegra is a dwarf leaf-succulent that forms clumps, even when they are young, and as they develop and age, they often form stems of 4–7 mm in diameter. A plant boasts 4 to 8 leaves, crowded on the short stems, ovate-rhomboid, very thick, between 20–35 × 10–13 mm, glaucous, shiny, often with minute white dots and sometimes with violet lustre, the undersurface with a bluntly keeled tip. The margins have 0 to 8, short teeth or small bumps on each side. The teeth are conical, rarely tipped with short bristles which disappear in older leaves. The margins and keels are indistinctly whitish. Flowers are yellow, 45 mm in diameter, with between 80–92 linear petals and between 150–180 stamens. Flowering time is in autumn (March to May).
Fig. 2. Flowers of Faucaria subintegra.
Faucaria subintegra is only known from a few locations in the wild and its population is decreasing. It is facing ongoing threats of habitat loss and degradation caused by rural expansion and overgrazing, as well as poaching of plants for the trade in ornamental succulent plants. It is assessed as Vulnerable (VU) in the Red List of South African Plants and remains the same in the wild.
Fig. 3. Faucaria subintegra growing in habitat.
Distribution and habitat
Faucaria subintegra is found between the Keiskamma and Tyolomnqa (Chalumna) Rivers, in the south-central part of the Eastern Cape of South Africa, within the Hamburg Dune Thicket and Doubledrift Karroid Thicket vegetation. This subtropical vegetation type comprises of Open Valley Bushveld with grassveld in between and is often overgrazed. Faucaria subintegra grows on rocky banks and in shallow soil in cavities in between flat sandstone rock sheets, in full sun , under extremely dry conditions.
Fig. 4. Faucaria subintegra growing in a garden.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The species name Faucaria is derived from the Latin faux meaning ‘jaws’ and referring to the way the paired toothed leaves resemble the gaping jaws of a tiger. The specific epithet subintegra is Latin, meaning ‘almost entire’ and was chosen as it completely describes the nearly toothless and thus almost smooth margins of the leaves compared to the strongly toothed leaves of other species of Faucaria, where the margins are noticeably broken into teeth. The botanist Harriet Margaret Louisa Bolus chose the name and the size and arrangement of the teeth motivated this decision. Bolus published the name in 1934, and in the same publication she published another species F. subindurata, from the same region. When it became clear that they were from the same species (conspecific), the name F. subintegra was chosen over F. subindurata, as the validly published name since F. subintegra was more appropriate for the species. The epithet subindurata means ‘almost hard’.
Fig. 5. Faucaria subintegra, showing dried old leaves and stem, collections nursery, Kirstenbosch NBG.
The succulent leaves store water and allow the plants to survive periods of drought and to survive in a region where rainfall is not regular or reliable. The glaucous, shiny leaves reflect some of the sun’s heat. This species resists a light frost under minimal protection but is not tolerant to hard freeze as it causes extreme damage to the leaves and may kill the plant.
Fig. 6. Faucaria subintegra, collections nursery, Kirstenbosch NBG.
Although rarely seen growing wild, Faucaria subintegra, known as the opposite of the long-toothed F. tigrina, is quite well known as an ornamental potplant and is an unusual addition to any horticultural collection. It has attractive leaves, a neat habit, large bright yellow flowers in autumn and can develop a showy stem, giving enormous pleasure with minimal effort as they are easily grown. Please be sure to purchase your plant from a reputable nursery that does not take plants from the wild.
Fig. 7. Faucaria subintegra, a potted specimen in a garden.
Growing Faucaria subintegra
These plants are low-maintenance and hardy to heat and drought but they are not tolerant of hard frost. They do well in very dry, warm areas where they make impressive outdoor ground covers or rockery plants in full sun and well-drained soil. When kept as indoor plants, they need a well-drained, coarse potting soil in a sunny or brightly lit position and prefer warm to moderate weather and will rest in extremely cold or hot temperatures. They can be put outside in summer, and taken inside during cold weather. Faucarias are known to rot easily if they receive too much water or are planted in poorly drained soil, and to fall over and etiolate in low light conditions such as under full shade. However, rotted parts of the plants can be removed and the remaining healthy parts can be cleaned and re-rooted.
They are easy to propagate from seeds and germination takes between 7 and 14 days at 21°C. Alternatively, they can be grown from cuttings although they are difficult to root.
According to Hutchinson (2014) Faucarias can be propagated from seed sown in sterilised potting soil of the ratio 1:1 parts of sieved pumice to 3 mm and sand. The soil mixture needs to be preheated for 2 hours at 70°C and left for a week before sowing the seeds. Pots of about 60 × 60 mm are recommended. The seeds are sown in autumn, they must not be sown deeper that the actual seed and can be lightly covered with river sand. Germination requires a moist environment and therefore, the pots are soaked in distilled water and then a transparent sheet of plastic is used to cover the tops of the pots. The plastic cover is removed gradually over a few days until it is entirely removed from the pots seven days after sowing, when the seedlings will start emerging. Seedlings are watered with a mixture of sterile water and fertilizer in a fine mist spray, twice each day.
The seedlings need to be established before transplanting, so wait for the first true leaves to develop and the taproot to be visible. The taproot must not be twisted but carefully placed straight inside the pot. Once the seedlings are fully established, allow minimal drying between watering as Faucarias do not tolerate excessive dampness.
During the winter season, the plants enter dormancy and do not necessarily need water. However, a light mist can help dust off the leaves and keep them in colour and free from insect pests.
For well-established plants, a soil mixture made up in a ratio of 2:1:1 parts of loam, coarse sand and pumice is recommended. Faucarias are prone to burrowing insects, and algae and grit is frequently used to prevent seedlings from such attacks. Generally, a systemic insecticide is recommended twice annually to prevent plants from pest attacks.
- Ebrahim, I. 2013. Observation of Faucaria subintegra. Locality obscured, Eastern Cape. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/10836985.
- Falanga, S. 2020. Observation of Faucaria subintegra. Eden (planted), Western Cape. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/41547349.
- Groen, L.E. & Van Der Maesen, L.J.G. 1999. Revision of the genus Faucaria (Ruschioideae: Aizoaceae) in South Africa. Bothalia 29(1):35–58.
- Hutchinson, S.L. 2014. Faucaria tigrina (Haw.) Schwantes. (Aizoaceae). PlantZAfrica. Online. http://pza.sanbi.org/faucaria-tigrina.
- LLifle, The Encyclopedia of Succulents, Faucaria subintegra. http://www.llifle.com/Encyclopedia/SUCCULENTS/Family/Aizoaceae/31995/Faucaria_subintegra 14 Nov. 2005. Accessed 9 Feb 2022.
- Van Jaarsveld, E.J. & Pienaar, U. de V. 2000. Vygies, gems of the veld. Cactus & Co. Libri, Venegono, Italy.
- Victor, J.E. & Dold, A.P. 2003. Threatened plants of the Albany Centre of Floristic Endemism, South Africa. South African Journal of Science 99: 437–446.
- Von Staden, L., Victor, J.E. & Dold, A.P. 2015. Faucaria subintegra L.Bolus. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants v. 2020.1. http://redlist.sanbi.org/species.php?species=162-33. Accessed 2022/02/09.
Custodians of Rare & Endangered Wildflowers (CREW)
Acknowledgements: additional images by Ismail Ebrahim, Sandra Falanga and Alice Notten.
Plant Type: Succulent
SA Distribution: Eastern Cape
Soil type: Sandy
Flowering season: Autumn
PH: Acid, Neutral
Flower colour: Yellow
Aspect: Full Sun, Morning Sun (Semi Shade), Afternoon Sun (Semi Shade)
Gardening skill: Easy