Plant of the Month – Apr 2018

Faucaria tigrina
Faucaria tigrina (Haworth 1789)
(Tiger Jaws, Shark Jaws, Tierbekvygie)

The first documented discovery of Faucaria tigrina was during an expedition in 1789 by Francis Masson, who was sent to the Cape by the King of England to collect plants for Kew Royal Botanical Gardens. The specimens of F. tigrina were sent to Adrian Haworth, a gardener at Kew, who recognised them as a new species. The genus name comes from the Latin word faux meaning jaw and tigrina for tiger.

The genus has 33 species in total, all occurring within the Eastern and Western Cape provinces of South Africa. Faucaria tigrina is found only within the Albany Thicket of the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. This subtropical vegetation type is comprised of thorny, impenetrable thickets, interspersed with small open areas, where F. tigrina occurs, growing among rocks in the shade of surrounding vegetation. Temperatures rarely drop below 0°C in winter, and summer and autumn maximum temperatures are between 22 and 32°C with plenty of sunlight hours.

The long, white, sabre-like teeth of Faucaria tigrina are actually not used for defense at all. The threadlike structures are special adaptations that help to collect water vapour from the surrounding air and direct it down toward the roots of the plant. Fog blows in from the coast to provide water vapour, a precious water source for plants surviving in the hot, subtropical thickets of the Eastern Cape.

The genus is a popular choice for the novice succulent grower, as it is easy and very satisfying to grow, with Faucaria tigrina being hailed as most rewarding of them all. In winter the plants go dormant, therefore only water very occasionally and lightly during this time, mostly just to dust off the leaves and to help keep red spiders away.

Faucaria tigrina has only four remaining subpopulations left in the wild and is facing continued threat due to urban development and over-grazing. It has therefore been listed as Endangered in the Red List of South African Plants. The flowers are large, yellow and appear from autumn to winter. Seeds are borne in hard fruit capsules, characteristic of the Aizoaceae family.

Many of the species in Faucaria grow in the Eastern Cape and sa such get 700 mm or more of rainfall in habitat. They appreciate more water than our Klein Karoo plants in cultivation.

Thanks to SANBI, for the above.

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