A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Plant of the Week: Haworthia pygmaea

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Horticultural Interpreter.

The Cactus and Succulent House is especially appealing in winter, not just because it is a warm refuge but because the clear winter sunlight accentuates the various, sometimes bizarre, forms of the plants inside.


Haworthia pygmaea is a good example. It stands barely half an inch above soil level and its thick, fleshy leaves present very little of their surface to the sun. You will see it in the right foreground of the next shot.

in-situ-2However, what little is presented is covered by an opaque “window”— an extraordinary adaptation that is shared by some other succulent plants, including a few in the same genus.


These windows allow light to penetrate below the leaf surface and for photosynthesis to take place inside, at—or even below—soil level.

Native to South Africa, the Haworthia genus was named in honor of Adrian Hardy Haworth (1767-1833) an English botanist. Find it on your immediate right as you enter the Cactus and Succulent House.


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