What is Faucaria?

Alex Tree

Faucaria is a genus of subtropical plants that belong to the Aizoaceae family. The majority of these perennials are seen growing in the desert regions of South Africa. Some can also be seen in warm areas of North America, such as Arizona and California. The species in this genus are more commonly known as tiger’s jaw. Plants in this genus are widely used as ornamental plants and sometimes referred to as windowsill cactus.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

The name Faucaria is derived from the Latin word fauces, meaning jaws. This is in reference to the appearance of these succulent plants, which closely resembles the mouth of an animal. Clusters of thick triangular leaves in rosette formation have spiny or teeth-like edges that turn purple in prolonged full exposure to sunlight. In summer, medium to large bright yellow flowers with thinly fringed petals sprout at the center of the foliage. Each clump is around 3 inches (8 cm) in diameter.

Both the foliage and blossoms of most tiger’s jaw species routinely open and close at specific times of the day. The spiky leaves and tasseled flowers open every afternoon at around 5:00 p.m. and close late at night, usually before midnight. Its blooms last for several days but will display this behavior until they expire.

One of the most commonly grown varieties of these types of plants is Faucaria tigrina. Like most of the species, this succulent plant exhibits teethed edges on its leaves with yellow or yellow-orange blossoms that appear in fall. The distinctive features of this plant are the reddish streaks and white dots on its matured leaves. When grown as potted plants, the soil in the container often requires pebbles of stones on the surface to maintain the necessary warm and dry conditions.

A rare flowering species of Faucaria is candida. Its most unique characteristic is the growth of small white or pinkish flowers instead of the usual yellow. These blossoms also appear either during fall or winter. The white flowers of candida are approximately 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter.

These perennials also fall under the cactus category, which is why rock and cactus gardeners often make use of them as accent plants. Faucaria can also adapt to indoor conditions as long as they get enough sunlight; however, this can limit their full height potential, which is about 6 inches (15 cm). Watering these drought-tolerant plants every few days should be enough to maintain them.

There were primarily around 30 identified species in the genus, but only six remain after the revision of these plants’ profile in 1999. The eliminated species during the revision were absorbed by Faucaria feline. Some confusion remains regarding how many species are officially in the genus.

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