Haworthiopsis attenuata (Haw.) G.D.Rowley
Common names: zebra plant, zebra haworthiopsis (Eng.) sebra-dwergaalwyntjie (Afr.); intelezi (isiXhosa)
Zebra Haworthia is an attractive, low-growing succulent that forms rosettes of fleshy, dark green leaves with white tubercles.
Haworthiopsis attenuata is a small, stemless, clustering, perennial succulent. It forms rosettes up to 150 mm in diameter with 30 to 40 dark green leaves up 75 mm long, with white tubercles. The flowers are white with green veins, in an inflorescence up to 400 mm tall. It flowers in summer, mainly in November and December.
Haworthiopsis attenuata is assessed as Vulnerable (VU) on the Red List of South African plants and it is listed among the species that are declining in the Red Listed medicinal plants of South Africa: Status, trends, and assessment challenges. It is at risk because of unsustainable exploitation for the traditional, medicinal and horticultural trades, as well as habitat loss. With these threats anticipated to continue, it is estimated that the population will decline further during the next 10 years.
Distribution and habitat
Haworthiopsis attenuata is widespread in the Eastern Cape, from the Gamtoos River in the west to the Mbashe River in the east.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
Haworthiopsis means ‘like the genus Haworthia’, due to their similarities and it was previously included in Haworthia. The genus was named as an honour to the British botanist and entomologist Adrian Hardy Haworth (1767–1833). The epithet attenuata means ‘thinned, reduced, attenuated’ or ‘weakened, diminished’, and refers to the way that the leaves narrow gradually towards the tip.
Haworthiopsis attenuata is a small plant that grows among rocks and grasses and under bushes, in Valley Bushveld and Thicket vegetation in the Eastern Cape Province. It has fleshy leaves that store water, which gives the plant the ability to survive dry periods and droughts.
Haworthiopsis attenuata is an attractive species with a rosette shape and is often used as a decorative plant in the house or garden. It is slow-growing, low-maintenance and needs little water, but rarely blooms when grown indoors.
Haworthiopsis attenuata is one of the plants known as intelezi, which are used traditionally to protect against evil spirits and lightning as well as in certain traditional herbal mixtures and remedies.
Growing Haworthiopsis attenuata
The zebra plant is propagated easily by removing offsets from the mother plant during the warmer months. Spring is the best season to sow seeds.
It is easy to grow as a pot plant, and can be grown in interesting containers and miniature gardens. Make sure the container has adequate drainage. Add sand to your potting mix to improve drainage, and where drainage is still not good enough, one can also add a layer of gravel at the bottom of the container to reduce the wicking action of the soil.
- Bayer, M.B. 1971. Changes in the genus Haworthia. Cactus and Succulent Journal (US) 43: 157–162.
- Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J. 2000. Cape Plants. A conspectus of the Cape flora of South Africa. Strelitzia 9. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria & Missouri Botanical Garden, Missouri.
- Crouch, N.R., Smith, G.F., Nichols, G., Burden, J.A. & Gillmer, J.M. 1999. A species recovery contribution for Haworthia limifolia var. limifolia, the umathithibala of the Zulu. Aloe 36: 8–13.
- Dold, T. & Cocks, M. 2000. The iNtelezi plants of the Eastern Cape: traditional and contemporary medicines. Aloe 37(1): 10–13.
- Gildenhuys, S.D. & Klopper, R.R. 2016. A synoptic review and new infrageneric classification for the genus Haworthiopsis (Xanthorrhoeaceae: Asphodelaceae). Phytotaxa 265(1): 1–26. http://dx.doi.org/10.11646/phytotaxa.265.1.1
- Gildenhuys, S.D. 2017. Haworthiopsis — an illustrated taxonomy. Aloe 53(1): 4–78.
- Grace et al. 2013. A revised generic classification for Aloe. Phytotaxa 76 (1): 7-14
- INaturalist. Observation of Haworthia attenuata by Dewald du Plessis in Dec 2017. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/36348630
- Manning, J.C., et al. 2014. A molecular phylogeny and genetic classification of Asphodelaceae subfamily Alooideae: A final resolution of the prickly issue of polyphyly in the alooids? Systematic Botany 39: 55–74. http://dx.doi.org/10.1600/036364414X678044
- Smith, G.F., Crouch, N.R. & Condy, G. 1997. Haworthia limifolia var. limifolia. Flowering Plants of Africa 55: 24–29.
- Williams, V.L., Manyama, P.A., Helme, N.A., Kamundi, D.A., Dold, A.P. & von Staden, L. 2014. Haworthiopsis attenuata (Haw.) G.D.Rowley. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2020.1. Accessed on 2021/08/04
- Williams, V.L., Victor, J.E. & Crouch, N.R. 2013. Red Listed medicinal plants of South Africa: Status, trends, and assessment challenges. South African Journal of Botany 86: 23–35.
Philisiwe Nonhlanhla Biyela
Pretoria National Botanical Garden
Acknowledgements: Image of Haworthiopsis attenuata in flower in habitat by Dewald du Plessis.
Plant Type: Succulent
SA Distribution: Eastern Cape
Soil type: Sandy, Loam
Flowering season: Early Summer
PH: Acid, Neutral
Flower colour: Green, White
Aspect: Full Sun, Morning Sun (Semi Shade), Afternoon Sun (Semi Shade)
Gardening skill: Easy