The reason why a cactus collector should grow Haworthia truncata var. maughanii is that this plant has an interesting structure and therefore looks uniquely attractive to add beauty to the collector’s collection.
The interesting structure of this plant includes leaves that are buried in the ground with their apex showing out and having a flat, translucent area that allows sunlight to enter and reach the sides of the leaves from inside. This structure is a clever strategy to protect the plant from grazing animals who are easily attracted towards its juicy, tasty leaves which actually store water for the plant to ease out dry periods. Additionally, it protects the plant from extreme temperatures and from being treaded on. The unusual flat-topped stubby leaves of H. truncata var. maughanii has made this plant very popular among cactus-lovers and has a large potential for hybridizing.
Several different plant groups in South Africa have adopted this strategy including those in the genus Haworthia. However, not all Haworthia species have this structure, but Haworthia truncata var. maughanii does.
Haworthia truncata maughanii, commonly known as Horse’s Teeth, was firstly named only Haworthia maughanii and considered a sister species of H. truncata, a nearest relative of the species. Today, the two plants are classified as varieties of one species. In the var. truncata, the leaves are flat and have a fan arrangement whereas in var. maughanii, they are tubular and have a rosette pattern. However, the leaf ends of both varieties are flat and translucent.
These windows that allow sunlight in are slightly different in both the varieties. While those in H. var. truncata have strips, those in var. maughanii are somewhat circular.
You should note that both these varieties are not ‘retuse haworthias’ (members of the group closely related to H. retusa). While the latter also have window leaves, their windows bend outward in the shape of an extended thumb and has a triangular window area.
H. truncata var. truncata as well as H. truncata var. maughanii originate from the succulent-rich Little Karoo region of South Africa, near the towns of Oudtshoom and Calitzdorp. But var. maughanii is quite rare, occurring only in a limited region to the south of Calitzdorp.
Var. maughanii has contractile roots that pull the plant into the soil during drought, letting only the windowed apex remain exposed.
Often var. maughanii grows together with H. truncata f. crassa forming intermediate forms between these two species.
There are two prominent cultivars of var. maughanii viz. cv. Murasake, a Japanese cultivar having red lines on its translucent top, and cv. Yukiguni, also a Japanese cultivar with the top having a white snowflakes-like design.
Flowers of Haworthia too are attractive, although they are very small. They look slightly different in different species. Their color is white or off-white and they’re held on wiry stems that arise from between the leaves.
Each of them has 6 tepals (this term is used in place of ‘petals’ for flowers which don’t have noticeably separate sepals and petals) out of which 3 are bunched together and curl upward at the tips and the remaining 3 curl downward.
In the wild, var. maughanii blooms during late spring and summer. But cultivated plants may bloom at other times of the year. Although they are not very conspicuous, these flowers are definitely charming.
Maughanii needs light frost protection. It can withstand minimum temperature of 5-degree C.
A variegated plant has leaves with stripes of two or more colors or even different shades of brownish-green. Variegated epidermis is a rare mutation named a chimera. It occurs due to lack of the ability to produce chlorophyll in some of the plant’s tissues, and thus the tissues no longer appear green. These tissues generally look white or yellow (due to carotenoid pigments) or red (due to anthocyanin pigments) and contrast the regular brownish-green tissue.
H. truncata var. maughanii f. variegata hort. Has stripes with two or more colors or even unique shades of brownish-green. H. truncata var. maughanii (Poelln.) Halda has uncommon abruptly truncated leaves that form an irregular, scabrous, circular leaf-tip around 1-1.5 cm in diameter which can be translucent, variously veined or opaque.
Such plants with variegated leaves look beautiful and are usually high-valued.
How to Grow
Var. maughanii is not difficult to cultivate and does well in different cultural conditions regarding color, shape and length of leaves, size of plant and rate of growth. However, it’s a slow grower and may take several years to form decent looking plants.
It does best in sandy-gritty soil with good drainage as it’s prone to root rot.
The plant should be kept in a cool and shaded spot in summer. Even otherwise the spot should receive light shade or diffuse sunlight. It can tolerate shade, especially during the hottest hours of the day. Its color remains green in shade, whereas full sun will darken it. If suddenly moved to full sun too quickly from shade/greenhouse, it can be sunburned. The amount of sun bearable for the plant without scorching depends on the rise in temperature in the summer in the area in which it is planted. During the spring, it can withstand full sun until the heat returns when the spring ends. In an area where afternoons are hot, it can withstand full morning sun, but needs shade or light shade in the afternoon.
You should water this plant regularly in its growing period, but should avoid water-logging and let the soil dry out between waterings, although you should never let it dry out completely during the rest period. If you grow it in a container, you’re recommended to do bottom watering by immersing the planter. The atmosphere should be very dry.
Once or twice during the growing season, it will need a fertilizer particularly formulated for cacti and succulents (poor in nitrogen) that includes all micronutrients and trace elements. This should be diluted to ½ the strength suggested on the label.
Var. maughanii should be repotted quite often because every year a part of its roots dies and then rots if kept in the same pot. The pots chosen should be deep enough to accommodate its long, thick, contractile roots.
Although H. truncata var. maughanii takes long to grow and become decent looking, it’s worth the wait. If you’re a true cactus-lover, you should give a special place to these beautiful dwarfs in your collection.