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The majority of Old World succulent monocotyledons are grouped into the Aloaceae, a medium sized family of rosulate leaf succulents including Aloe, Astroloba, Bulbine, Chortolirion, Gasteria, Haworthia and Poellnitzia. The largest genus is Aloe with more than 450 species. The Aloaceae are distributed across southern Africa, Arabia, Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands. A few Bulbines are found in Australia.

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Aloe   Linnaeus (1753)
Greek: alsos, Arabic: alloeh = bitter
 
Over 450 species of Aloe have been described with diverse forms and sizes. The genus includes small grass-like herbs and stemless succulent rosettes a few inches tall to larger species with stout 60ft trunks, occupying the ecological niche of trees. Aloes, with a waxy surface to their succulent leaves, are well-adapted to harsh climates with infrequent precipitation. They can flower many times with clusters of yellow, orange or red tubular flowers, angled downwards on a simple or branched inflorescence.
 
Aloes are distributed across sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, and Arabia. Aloes feature in prehistoric rock art by bushmen, and have been cultivated for thousands of years. Although Aloes are mentioned in the Bible, this probably refers to another resinous plant. However, the Egyptian Ebers Papyrus (ca. 1552 BC) refers to the medicinal value of Aloes, which were also used in embalming. Aloes were known to the Greeks by 400 BC. The Greek herbal of Dioscorides (41-68 AD) recommends Aloe applied externally for wounds, hemorrhoids, ulcers and hair loss, and internally as a laxative.
 
Aloe vera became so widely grown as a medicinal plant in ancient times that its exact region of origin is a mystery. This species is of considerable economic importance and extracts are included in all manner of pharmaceutical preparations for the skin, treatment of burns and for ingestion. It is important to use the correct species of Aloe for medicinal preparations, as some species e.g. Aloe venenosa are poisonous. Toxic reactions by sensitive individuals to Aloe barbadensis (Aloe vera) have been reported, despite its widespread, mainly safe use.
 
Aloe ferox and other species are cultivated for the bitter properties of their sap (bitter Aloes) which discourages predators. Aloe vera & Aloe ferox are the basis of a sustainable £multi-million industry in South Africa.

Aloe aculeata

Aloe aculeata  Pole-Evans 1915 (Red Hot Poker Aloe)
The large rosettes are formed from light-green succulent leaves, spotted with distinctive white pustules and reddish prickles, especially on their lower surface. Leaf edges have many small sharp reddish teeth. The branched inflorescence has up to four dense cylindrical racemes of yellow flowers.
 
Native to hot, dry mountains of Zimbabwe.

Aloe affinis

Aloe affinis  Berger 1908
Name: Latin affinis = "related to, resembling" (other spotted Aloes)

This Aloe is stemless or with a very short stem. The tapering yellowish-green succulent leaves have longitudinal lines or spots and reddish-brown marginal teeth. The 3ft inflorescence is branched with 5 - 10 cylindrical racemes of dull-red tubular flowers with swollen bases and exserted stamens.
 
Native to sandstone mountains (3000 - 5000ft) of the South African Mpumalanga (Eastern Transvaal), a warm Summer rainfall area with light frosts in Winter.

Aloe africana Aloe africana Aloe africana

Aloe africana  Miller 1768 (Uitenhaagsaalwyn)
This medium-sized solitary plant grows up to 6ft tall. The gray-green lanceolate succulent leaves have small, sharp reddish-brown marginal teeth. Dead leaves persist on the lower stem. The solitary or branched inflorescence produced in early Spring, is a dense raceme of tubular yellow flowers distinctively curving upwards and with exserted orange stamens. Flowers are followed by dehiscent capsules containing winged seeds.

Aloe africana is native to the coastal Eastern Cape of South Africa especially around Uitenhage and Port Elizabeth, where it experiences rainfall throughout the year. The flowers are attractive to sunbirds.

go to top     Aloe arborescens

Aloe arborescens

Aloe arborescens  Miller 1768 Syn: A. mutabilis (Krantz Aloe, Kransaalwyn)
This medium-sized shrubby, branching Aloe grows to 6 ft, with large, decorative spikes of yellow, orange or red tubular flowers. Bicoloured forms are also known. More than one of the unbranched inflorescences can be produced from each rosette. In strong light the bluntly-toothed leaves take on a grey-green colour.
 
Aloe arborescens is widely distributed through the Eastern Summer rainfall regions of South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe and grows from sea level to the tops of mountains, often growing on exposed rocky ridges (= krantz).
 
Aloe arborescens is widely-cultivated in tropical countries, as a garden ornamental plant, for hedging and for the healing properties of the gel within its succulent leaves. Propagation from stem cuttings is easy.
 
Left: A variegated form of Aloe arborescens.
 
See also the natural hybrid:  Aloe principis

Aloe arenicola

Aloe arenicola  Reynolds 1938 (Sand Aloe, Sand-Aalwyn)
Name: Latin areni + cola = "sand dweller" referring to its habitat.

This distinctive Aloe has small, fleshy triangular succulent leaves with prominent white tubercles on their outer (lower) surface. Small plants may form a rosette but soon lean over and adopt a trailing habit. Leaf margins may have teeth or raised tubercles. The stems offset at their base to form large clumps. The inflorescence is a head of tubular orange-red flowers with greenish-yellow tips, hanging down as the flowers open.
 
Native to sandy solis of the coastal Northern & Western Cape where it experiences Winter rainfall and fogs at other times.

Aloe aristata

Aloe aristata
Photo: David Mostardi

Aloe aristata  Haworth 1825 (Torch Aloe)
from South Africa forms a small stemless 6-8 in rosette. The triangular soft green succulent leaves have raised white spots, especially on their undersides, finely toothed edges and filamentous tips. The rosettes offset freely and with time will form a substantial clump. Offsets may be removed and used for propagation.
 
Aloe aristata is often grown indoors as a window-ledge succulent plant, but it is very hardy. In the Drakensberg mountains it grows at up to 7500 ft and is equally happy growing outside through the wet English winter, provided that it is potted up in a very free-draining medium. It does well on a sunny patio, potted up in almost pure granite chippings mixed with a small amount of soil.

Aloe aristata

Left: During the summer Aloe aristata flowers freely, with 10 in spikes of tubular pink flowers attracting bees and other insects.
 
Right: A top layer of snow is no problem. This large clump of Aloe aristata in a shallow planter has been under snow many times.

Aloe bellatula Aloe bellatula

Aloe bellatula  Reynolds 1956
is a choice, tender plant from Madagascar, growing at elevations of around 4500 ft. The 10in long thin succulent leaves are marbled brown and green, becoming bronzed in strong light. Tiny, pale teeth along the leaf margins make them feel rough rather than sharp. The rosettes offset freely at their base to form a dense clump. The inflorescence consists of a raceme of delicate pink and darker pink striped bells on the end of a long stalk. This plant is easy to grow on a sunny window-ledge. In England it flowers freely in mid-December.

Aloe albiflora  Guillaumin 1940
is a very similar plant to Aloe bellatula but with pure white flowers. Native to Madagascar.

Aloe bainesii
Above: Karoo Botanic Garden
Right: RBG Kew
Aloe bainesii

Aloe barberae  Dyer 1874  Syn. A. bainesii
This tree Aloe can grow over 50 ft tall. Its stout trunk is covered with grey bark and branches dichotomously once it reaches about 10 ft to form a rounded crown of many rosettes. The dark green recurved succulent leaves forming each rosette have raised edges with small teeth. The infloresence is a short raceme of densely-packed tubular reddish flowers with exserted yellow stamens.
 
Widely distributed across Southern East Africa from the Cape to Mozambique.

Aloe brevifolia

Aloe brevifolia  Miller 1771  Syn. A. perfoliata, A. prolifera
The compact 5in rosettes offset to form dense clumps. The triangular succulent leaves have teeth on their margins and sometimes on their surface. The inflorescence is a raceme of tubular orange flowers.
 
Native to the Western Cape of South Africa. Undemanding in cultivation.

Aloe buhrii

Aloe buhrii  Lavranos 1971
The rosettes are formed from 12-15in lanceolate leaves with narrow longitudinal lines. As the succulent leaves mature they become purplish and marked with white spots. The multi-branched inflorescence has racemes of orange to yellow flowers.
 
Native to a restricted range in the mountains of the Western Karoo of South Africa.

Aloe  cameronii Aloe  cameronii

Aloe cameronii  Hemsley 1903 (Cameron's Ruwari Aloe, Red Aloe)
Named for: Kenneth J. Cameron of the African Lakes Corporation, who sent a specimen to Kew.

This medium-sized Aloe has an open, stemless rosette of narrow dark green succulent leaves with marginal teeth, turning red in full sun and when stressed by drought. The rosettes offset at their base to form a large clump. The inflorescence is a 1 ft spike of orange tubular flowers, produced during the Winter.
 
Native to Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia where it typically grows in crevices in granite rocks and cliffs. Water sparingly to develop the red leaf colour.

Aloe  capitata var. gneissicola

Aloe capitata  Baker 1883
Name: Latin capitate = having a head refering to the capitate inflorescence.

A variable plant with five varieties recognised.
 
Aloe capitata var. gneissicola  Perrier 1926
This Aloe forms a solitary rosette of lanceolate greyish-green keel-shaped leaves with red marginal teeth. These succulent leaves colour up pink towards their edges and ends and the top surface has a marked bud imprint. The lower surface of the leaves carries a few tubercles. The branched inflorescence carries 3 - 5 tight heads of orange-yellow tubular flowers with exserted stamens.
Native to Madagascar.

Aloe ciliaris

Aloe ciliaris  Haworth 1825 (Climbing Aloe)
is a small, fast-growing species from the Eastern Cape of South Africa, capable of scrambling up to 30 ft through scrub or along the ground. The recurved dark-green succulent leaves are well-spaced along the upper part of the stems, bear tiny marginal teeth and may have white spots on their surface. The margins of the leaf-sheaths around the stems bear distinctive white hair-like teeth (hence ciliaris). The decorative racemes of tubular orange flowers are sunbird pollinated.
 
The Eastern Cape has a hot dry climate with mainly summer rainfall, a guide to watering this plant. This species is often used for landscaping in frost free climates and flowers throughout the year.

Aloe classenii Aloe classenii

Aloe classenii  Reynolds 1965
Named for: George A. Classen (1915-1982) Rusian geologist & plant collector.

This small clumping Aloe has rosettes of lanceolate succulent leaves with small marginal teeth and white spots or streaks underneath the leaves. The branching inflorescence bears clusters of dark-red buds opening to tubular orange-red flowers with yellow tips and exserted orange stamens.
 
Native to dry lowland forests and bush of Kenya where it typically grows among rocks.

Aloe wickensii

A. cryptopoda  Baker 1884 Syn. Aloe wickensii (Geelaalwyn)
from Southern Africa including Mozambique, Swaziland and Mpumalanga has long tapering bluish-grey succulent leaves, colouring up with a purple hue in bright light. Leaves have brown marginal teeth. The inflorescence is a branched spike of orange-red or yellow tubular flowers or flowers with orange-red buds opening yellow.
 
Natural hybridization has been reported, which may contribute to the variable flower colour of this species. Its habitat range is a Summer rainfall area.

Aloe deltoideodonta

Aloe deltoideodonta var. candicans  Perrier 1926
is a medium-sized plant, growing at 2000 - 2500 ft in the mountains of central-southern Madagascar. The stemless rosettes of triangular pale green leaves (up to 6 in long) with prominent longitudinal darker green lines and finely toothed margins, spread by offsetting from the base to form loose clusters. The inflorescence bears a cluster of salmon-pink tubular flowers.
Left: Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Az., Sept. 2004.
 
Aloe deltoideodonta var. deltoideodonta  Reynolds 1966   - darker green leaves with variable amounts of broken white lines or spots.
Aloe deltoideodonta var. brevifolia as var. deltoideodonta  Perrier 1926   - but rather shorter more triangular leaves.

Aloe dichotoma

Aloe dichotoma  Masson 1776
is a distinctive tree Aloe from dry rocky areas of the Western Cape and Namibia. The common name refers to the traditional use of hollowed stems of this tree as quivers. This is one of the largest species of Aloe, growing up to 30 ft tall.
 
A single trunk divides into numerous branches at the top, each branch bearing a rosette of narrow grey-green succulent leaves. Old leaves are not retained on the smooth, but ridged trunk with sharp edges to each scale. The inflorescence is divided into three to five racemes of large tubular yellow flowers. In a young plant the leaves are arranged in vertical rows and only with maturity, spiral to form a rosette.
 
Left: North Escarpment near Nieuwoudtville, RSA. December 1998. More pictures of Aloe dichotoma

Aloe dorotheae

Aloe dorotheae  Berger 1908
is an attractive medium-growing species from Tanzania. The succulent rosettes are bright green in average light but develop a coppery-red hue in full sun. The shiny leaf surface is marked with scattered white spots and the leaf margins have prominent teeth. The rosettes offset freely by suckering to form dense clumps. The unbranched inflorescence carries clusters of glossy bright red tubular flowers. This is an attractive ground-cover plant for frost-free xeriscaping.
 
Left: Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Az., Sept. 2004.

go to top    

Aloe ellenbeckii  Berger 1905  Syn. Aloe dumetorum  Mathew & Brandham 1990
The rosettes have fleshy thick green succulent leaves with rows of pale green spots, sometimes elongated into streaks. The leaf margins are furnished to a variable extent with small triangular white teeth. The plants clump up freely by offsetting at their base and the leaves may become bronzed in strong light. The inflorescence is a raceme of orange flowers with pale yellow-green tips on the end of a 1ft stalk, usually produced in the Autumn. The tubular flowers have swollen bases.
 
Native to Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. Undemanding in cultivation.

Aloe excelsa

Aloe excelsa  Berger 1906 (Noble Aloe)
from Zimbabawe, Zambia, South Africa and Mozambique is a tree Aloe with a solitary stem up to 14 ft, bearing a large rosette of 3ft dark green sword-shaped succulent leaves with reddish-brown marginal teeth. The leaf surfaces are thorny, especially those of younger plants. Old leaves remain attached to the stem, providing protective felting. The branched candelabra-like inflorescence carries 10 - 15 racemes of orange to crimson flowers.
 
Aloe excelsa is an impressive plant, widely used in landscaping. It grows at up to 2500 - 5000 ft and receives mainly Summer rainfall and a cool, dry Winter. Traditional use is made of antimicrobial substances in the leaves and as a treatment for a variety of digestive disorders and diabetes.

Aloe falcata

Aloe falcata  Baker 1880 (Vans Rhynsdorp Aloe)
growing near Vans Rhynsdorp, South Africa, December 1998. The smooth blue-green succulent leaves have sharp brownish teeth along their margins and form compact rosettes which often lie at an angle. Aloe falcata flowers in December - January, mid summer in the Southern hemisphere and the hottest time of the year. The branched inflorescence carries spikes of tubular orange flowers.
 
This species comes from a winter rainfall area in the North-Western Cape and should be watered carefully and hardly at all during the summer flowering season when it would usually be completely dry. It requires water during the winter which may be a problem in cool climates.

Aloe ferox

Aloe ferox  Miller 1768 (Cape Aloe, Bitter Aloe, Bitteraalwyn, Bergaalwyn)
is a tall, single stemmed Aloe up to 10 ft tall with a wide distribution in the South African Cape, Southern KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho and the Free State, in grassland and bush in both Summer and Winter rainfall areas.
 
The large 3ft, tapering, fleshy, grey-green succulent leaves with reddish-brown toothed margins are arranged in a dense rosette. Teeth may be present on the leaf surfaces, especially in immature plants. Old leaves remain as protective felting on the stem, leading to a rather untidy appearance.
 
Left: Aloe ferox flowering at the Kokerboomkwekery, Van Rhynsdorp. Xmas 1998.
 
 More pictures of Aloe ferox    See also the natural hybrid:  Aloe principis

The flowers in various shades of orange are carried well above the leaves on candelabra-like heads with up to ten dense flower spikes. Copious production of nectar makes the flowers attractive to birds, insects and monkeys.
 
Aloe ferox is an impressive feature plant for a Mediterranean climate, or as a container plant if it can be given Winter protection. However it is grown, it needs full sun and free-draining soil to prosper. This species hybridizes freely with other Aloes. Aloe ferox is the source of "Bitter Aloes," the yellow juice from just under the skin, which is a powerful purgative. The gel within the middle of the succulent leaves has similar soothing properties to that of A. vera.

Aloe forbesii Aloe forbesii

Aloe forbesii  Balfour 1903
The short, branching stem becomes prostrate on the ground with the dark-green rosettes clumping up to form a mat. Rosettes are composed of long (10 in), narrow dull green succulent leaves with brownish marginal teeth. The inflorescence is a short, open raceme of orange flowers with greenish-yellow tips. Immature flower buds are yellow and become more orange as the flowers develop.
 
Native to Socotra.

Aloe juvenna

Aloe juvenna Brandham & S Carter 1979
from Kenya has small rosettes of triangular green succulent leaves bearing white spots, some raised, or streaks and prominent inward-curving marginal teeth. The rosettes turn reddish-brown in full sun. Old leaves remain green, so as the stem elongates a characteristic densely-stacked rosette forms. Stems offset at their base or occasionally higher up to form a dense clump. The unbranched inflorescence carries a cluster of tubular red flowers.
 
A tolerant succulent plant for any window-ledge, but dislikes being watered during its winter resting period. Often confused with Aloe squarrosa.
Photo: Jim Myers

Aloe lateritia

Aloe lateritia  Engler 1895
This Aloe has dense stemless rosettes of dark green succulent leaves, with fine marginal red teeth and patterned with elongated pale spots. The leaves take on a red colour in string light and their tips tend to wither. Plants may form clumps by suckering. The inflorescence is a dense panicle of yellow to orange flowers.
 
Native to grassland of Kenya, Ethiopea and Tanzania. The leaves are applied to various skin lesions and a decoction of the leaves is a traditional remedy for fevers and for treating livestock. The roots yield a yellow to pink-brown dye.

Aloe leptosyphon  Syn. Aloe greenwayi

Aloe leptosyphon  Berger 1905  Syn. Aloe greenwayi  Reynolds 1964
The rosettes of green lanceolate succulent leaves have either no stem or a very short one. Leaf margins have small teeth and their upper surface may have a few elongated white spots. The inflorescence is a cylindrical raceme of tubular orange-red flowers with yellow-green mouths.
 
Native to Tanzania.

Aloe musapana

Aloe musapana  Reynolds 1964
Named for the type habitat on Musapa Mountain, Zimbabwe.

A small Aloe growing in dense clusters of pendant stems with succulent leaves arranged in two rows on the stem. The linear, lanceolate leaves up to a foot long have fine white marginal teeth and may have some white spots on their surface. The inflorescence is an open spike of tubular scarlet to orange flowers with green tips.
 
Native to Zimbabwe where it grows hanging down sheer rock faces at altitudes of 6000 to 6800 ft, in full sun but safe from fires.

Aloe marlothii Aloe marlothii

Aloe marlothii  Berger 1905 (Mountain Aloe, Bergalwyn)
Named for: Hermann Wilhelm Rudolf Marloth 1855 - 1931, South African botanist, & chemist.

This large single-stemmed Aloe grows up to 15 ft tall. The large greyish-green succulent leaves have small red-brown marginal teeth. The branching candelabra-like inflorescence produces up to 30 racemes of tubular orange to yellow flowers with exserted stamens.
 
Native to South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal), Swaziland, Botswana and Mozambique, growing in mountains from sea level to 5200 ft. A decoction of the leaves was a traditional remedy for tapeworm.

Aloe marlothii
Aloe microstigma

Aloe microstigma  Salm-Dyck 1854
is widely distributed across the dry interior of the Western to Eastern Cape Province. The medium-sized blue-green rosettes turn bronze and curl inwards in full sun or when stressed, thus protecting the inner rosette. The succulent leaves are speckled with white spots and their margins have prominent brown teeth.
 
This species flowers freely through the winter with dense spikes of tubular orange flowers turning yellow as they open. The nectar from these is attractive to birds which are the main pollinators. A suitable plant for frost-free dry gardens.

Aloe mitriformis

Aloe mitriformis  Miller 1768  Syn. A. perfoliata (Mitre Aloe, puin aalwyn, krans aalwyn)
The long creeping stems, often with side shoots, terminate in a rosette of triangular bluish-green succulent leaves with yellowish marginal teeth and pustulate undersides. The branched flower stalks produce up to five dense racemes of tubular dull-red flowers during the Summer.
 
Widely distributed in mountains of the Western Cape of South Africa where it experiences mainly Winter rainfall.

go to top     Aloe palmiformis

Aloe palmiformis  Baker 1878
The branching stems bear rosettes of dull green lanceolate succulent leaves with brown marginal teeth. The leaf surfaces are spotted or streaked in a lighter green. The branching inflorescence carries racemes of tubular orange-red flower buds, opening to yellow flowers.
 
Native to Angola.

Aloe peckii Aloe peckii

Aloe peckii  Bally & Verdoorn 1956
grows on gypsum soils in Somalia at elevations of around 5000 ft. The stemless olive-green rosettes have fleshy, usually streaked or banded succulent leaves (6 in) whose margins bear sharp brown teeth. The branched inflorescence has spikes of small straw-coloured to greenish-yellow flowers, with paler petal borders causing a striped appearance.
The flowers distinguish this species from the similar A. somaliensis which has pink to red flowers.
Left: Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Az., Sept. 2004.

Aloe pendens

Aloe pendens  Forsskål 1775
from the Yemen has a lax speading habit making it suitable as a ground-cover or hanging-basket plant. In its habitat it grows down rock faces.
 
The narrow floppy succulent leaves have small white spots and toothed edges. The stems offset freely at their base. The thin flower stalk bends down and then upwards to display a spike of yellow or orange-red tubular flowers. Flowers are produced throughout the year.

Aloe petricola

Aloe petricola  Pole-Evans 1917
Name: petri = "stone" + cola = "fond of" referring to its ocurrence among stones

This Aloe is stemless and the rosette remains solitary. The glaucous green succulent leaves have a few prickles on their upper surface and dark brown marginal teeth. The lower surface is obtuse with a line of prickles along the upper portion of the keel. The branched inflorescence has 3 - 6 cylindrical distinctive bi-coloured racemes of, greenish white at the bottom to pale orange near the top, tubular flowers with dark brown anthers.
 
Native to sandstone and granite mountains in a small area near Nelspruit, Mpumalanga (Eastern Transvaal), South Africa. Similar to Aloe aculeata but with fewer thorns, especially on its lower surface.

Aloe pillansii

Aloe pillansii  Guthrie 1928 (Giant Quiver Tree, Reusekokerboom)
Named for: N.S. Pillans, South African botanist.

This distinctive tree Aloe has a stout trunk with rough, greyish bark. The trunk may produce several upright branches with age, each of which carries a large terminal rosette of greyish green succulent leaves, whose margins have small white teeth. The branched inflorescence arises horizontally among the lower leaves of the rosette and carries several racemes of slightly-swollen yellow flowers.
 
Native to the North-Western Cape into Namibia.

Aloe plicatilis

Aloe plicatilis  Miller 1768 (Fan Aloe, Bergaalwyn, Tongaalwyn, Franschoekaalwyn)
Name: Latin plicatilis = fan-like, pleated, folding together

This Aloe has a limited distribution in the mountains of the South-Western Cape, a winter rainfall area. This distinctive Aloe is is popular with collectors, although it is slow-growing and in a temperate climate is sensitive to watering. Large specimens may grow up to 15 ft tall in their native habitat but 6 - 8 ft tall would be exceptional in cultivation.

Left: Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden, RSA. December 1998.

Aloe plicatilis Aloe plicatilis flower

The grey-brown stems are forked dicotomously, with clusters of strap-shaped blue-green succulent leaves arranged in two opposite rows on the end of each stem. The 10 in leaves have a few small teeth distal to the stem. The fan-shaped arrangement of leaves is unique to this species. Each leaf cluster can produce a single cylindrical raceme of tubular scarlet flowers towards the end of the winter.
 
Left: Plant and flower, RBG Kew.

Aloe polyphylla
Photo: RJ Hodgkiss
Aloe polyphylla
Photo: Mike Kaplan

Aloe polyphylla  Schönland ex Pillans (Spiral Aloe, Kroonaalwyn)
grows at 6000-8000 ft in the Drakensberg mountains, where it sometimes experiences winter snow. Even during the summer, rain is frequent. This is one of the few Aloes that may withstand the constant wet, frost and snow of the English winter, provided that it is growing in very free-draining soil. It is more likely to suffer during over-hot summers.
 
In its habitat, Aloe polyphylla grows among loose basalt rocks and in rock crevices so potting it up in a medium containing a high proportion of granite chippings is not inappropriate for a damp climate.
 
In a mature Aloe polyphylla over 8 in and up to 18 in in diameter, the grey-green succulent leaves are ranked as five rows in a spiral, which, as shown in these two pictures, may be either left or right-handed. The leaf magins carry a few small teeth. The sharp leaf tips, tend to go brown.
 
The plants are stemless and do not offset, so propagation must be from seed. The branched inflorescence carries clusters of reddish tubular flowers which are self-sterile and cross-pollinated in their habitat by sunbirds. This species is listed as endangered, partly due to collection. However, plants grown from seed or from micro-propagation are becoming freely available and do well in cultivation.

Aloe x principis
Photos: Jorge Cannas, 2013
Aloe x principis
 

Aloe x principis  Stearn 1938  Syn. Aloe salm-dyckiana
Name: Latin princeps = a prince or chief

This tree Aloe is a natural hybrid: Aloe arborescens x Aloe ferox.
Aloe x principis grows up to 8 ft tall with a sparsely-branching main trunk bearing large rosettes of succulent gray-green leaves with small marginal teeth. The branching inflorescence carries several dense spikes of tubular scarlet to orange flowers, in some clones turning yellow as they open.
 
Occurs naturally in parts of South Africa where A. arborescens and A. ferox grow together. In such places a range of growth habits and flower colours are seen, from which plants in cultivation have been selected.

Aloe pseudorubroviolaceae

Aloe pseudorubroviolaceae  Lavranos & Collenette 2000 (Arabian Aloe)
forms clumps of large 2 ft diameter rosettes of smooth, thick, blue-grey succulent leaves with toothed margins. In very strong light or when stressed by drought, the leaves may take on a pinkish hue (hence pseudorubroviolaceae). The branched inflorescence of waxy orange-red tubular flowers is produced in winter.
 
This succulent plant grows on steep slopes above 6000 ft in Yemen and Saudi-Arabia and is reported as tolerating light frost providing that it is grown in full sun in very well-drained soil.

go to top   Aloe ramosissima Aloe ramosissima  Aloe ramosissima
Aloe ramosissima

Aloe ramosissima  Pillans 1937 (Maiden's Quiver Tree, Nooienskokerboom)
ramosissima = very much branched

The dichotomously-branching, smooth stems of Aloe ramosissima carry a head of upwardly-curving, lanceolate grey-green leaves. These succulent leaves have a flat upper surface, rounded cross section and tiny browish marginal teeth along the narrow, yellowish upper leaf margin. The inflorescence is a short raceme of swollen tubular yellow flowers close to the foliage.
 
This shrubby succulent plant is native to hot dry mountains of the Northern Cape and Southern Namibia. Aloe ramosissima is distinguished from A. dichotoma by absence of a trunk, hence the synonym: A. dichotoma var. ramosissima Glen & Hardy 2000.

Aloe reynoldsii Aloe reynoldsii

Aloe reynoldsii  Letty 1934
from the Eastern Cape of South Africa is a low-growing rosetted succulent plant, clumping with maturity. The waxy, blue-gray succulent leaves have longitudinal striations, white spots and marginal fine white teeth. The inflorescence is a panicle of bright yellow to orange flowers. This species was named for the plant collector Gilbert W. Reynolds.
 
Aloe striata  Haworth 1804   is a similar plant except that the leaves are unspotted with more conspicuous longitudinal striations and the inflorescence is a panicle of coral-red flowers.

Aloe rupestris Aloe rupestris

Aloe rupestris  Baker 1896 (Bottlebrush Aloe, Rosary Vine)
Name: Latin rupestris = growing in rocky places

The stem of this small tree Aloe supports a top-heavy rosette of large curved grey-green leaves. When young these succulent leaves have strong red marginal teeth but the teeth are less pronounced in mature plants. The branched inflorescence carries up to 15 cylindrical racemes densely packed with tubular yellow to orange flowers with exserted bright orange-red stamens.

Native to a wide range in KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland and Southern Mozambique where it experiences Summer rainfall.

Aloe secundiflora

Aloe secundiflora  Engler 1895
is a medium-sized solitary stemless Aloe from Kenyan and Tanzania. The curved stiff, shiny succulent leaves (20 in) have margins with sharp teeth. There may be a few white spots on the leaf surface, especially before maturity. The branched inflorescence has racemes of well spaced, small red tubular flowers with paler to yellow mouths.
 
Aloe secundiflora is drought tolerant but not hardy. Extracts of this succulent plant may have useful antimicrobial properties and as a substitute for Aloe vera.
 
Left: Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Az., Sept. 2004.

Aloe sinkatana Aloe sinkatana

Aloe sinkatana  Reynolds 1957 (Sudan Aloe)
Name: refers to habitat near the town of Sinkat in the Sudan.

This small stemless, clumping Aloe has 6 in long lanceolate succulent leaves with spotted upper surfaces and small, well-spaced, red marginal teeth. The inflorescence, produced in the Winter, is a capitate cluster of yellow to dark red tubular flowers with exserted stamens.
 
Native to mountains of the Sudan, growing at around 3000 ft above sea level. Has been used to make hybrids.

Aloe speciosa Aloe speciosa

Aloe speciosa  Baker 1880 (Tilt-Head Aloe, Spaansaalwyn)
(Latin: speciosa = showy)
is a medium-sized tree Aloe up to 20 ft with an untidy rosette of long tapering blue-green succulent leaves, on top of a stem that is often felted with old leaves. Leaf margins are furnished with small reddish teeth. The terminal rosette often tilts towards the North in its habitat i.e. facing the sun, but towards the maximum light elsewhere. The inflorescence is a dense cone-shaped spike of flowers, often with multiple spikes from one rosette. The flower buds start off deep pink, maturing to a greenish-white. As the flowers open, the orange to brown stamens and style are exserted and provide most of the flower colour.

Aloe speciosa is widely distributed from the Western to Eastern Cape of South Africa in hot, dry river valleys and low mountain slopes. It experiences both Winter and Summer rainfall, with the latter predominating. This is a spectacular succulent plant for a Mediterranean climate and is said to tolerate dry cold. The leaves have a traditional use to dye fabrics pink.

Aloe x spinosissima

Aloe x spinosissima   (Spider Aloe)
Probably an interspecific hybrid (A. humilis x A. arborescens). This succulent plant forms a 3ft clump and grows about 3 ft tall, with rosettes of inrolled lanceolate succulent leaves with well-spaced small marginal teeth and white pustules on their surfaces. The inflorescence is a spike of tubular orange-red flowers. Sometimes seen as a dwarf A. arborescens.

Aloe squarrosa Aloe squarrosa

A. squarrosa  Baker 1883 (Syn: A. concinna, A. zanzibarica)
This creeping species grows hanging down limestone cliffs in Socotra. It is often confused with Aloe juvenna but has larger rosettes with longer, often recurved white-spotted lanceolate succulent leaves edged with triangular teeth. The unbranched inflorescence carries a cluster of tubular red to orange flowers with greenish tips. Although not uncommon in cultivation, the wild population is small and threatened by grazing.

Aloe striatula
 
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Aloe striatula  Haworth 1825 (Hardy Aloe)
from the Eastern Cape of South Africa and Southern Lesotho has a rosette of narrow dark-green succulent leaves up to 10 in long on a branching 1 in stem up to 4-6 ft tall, eventually forming a bushy clump. New stem sheaths are distinctively striped white and green (hence striatula), going brown with age. Leaf margins have well-spaced tiny teeth. The inflorescence is a dense 18 in spike of tubular yellow flowers arising from the stem below the newest leaves.
 
Aloe striatula is very hardy and tolerates the cold-wet English winter, providing that it is planted in a very free-draining medium. During the winter of 2008/9 my plant was covered in snow for several days. However, this succulent plant is also drought-tolerant, suitable for dry-landscaping. An old plant needs staking to prevent drooping, or it could be pruned to encourage a bushy habit. The prunings can be potted up for propagation of new plants. The sap of this species is said to be an irritant.

Aloe tenuior Aloe tenuior

Aloe tenuior  Haworth 1825 (Fence Aloe)
Name: Latin tenuior = "slender"

This medium-sized Aloe grows from a large, woody rootstock, up to 10 ft tall with lanceolate succulent leaves towards the ends of the branching stems. Leaf margins have small teeth. The inflorescence is a raceme of tubular yellow flowers. Aloe tenuior var. rubriflora has red flowers.
 
Native to the Eastern Cape where it typically scrambles through thorny bushes or on steep slopes. The leaves are a traditional purgative and used against tapeworms.

Aloe tomentosa Aloe tomentosa

Aloe tomentosa  Deflers 1889
The large rosette of pale green succulent leaves with toothed edges, produces a branching inflorescence. The greenish flowers are markedly tomentose (wooly). These succulent plants sucker to form large groups.
 
Native to Saudi Arabia and the Yemen.

Aloe vacillans Aloe vacillans

Aloe vacillans  Forsskål 1775
grows on rocky mountain slopes in the Yemen and Saudi Arabia at up to 8000 ft. The large 20 in tapering, blue-grey succulent leaves whose margins have brown teeth, form a rosette on the end of a short stem, offsetting at the base of the stem to make clumps. The leaves may take on a bronzed colour in full sun. The branched inflorescence bears spikes of bright yellow to orange-red flowers.

Aloe vaombe Aloe vaombe

Aloe vaombe  Decorse & Poisson 1912 (Malagasy Tree Aloe)
from Southern Madagascar has an unbranched trunk up to 12 ft bearing a single rosette of recurved smooth green succulent leaves with a concave cross section and marginal teeth. The leaves take on reddish tones in strong light. The inflorescence is a branched raceme bearing spikes of bright crimson tubular flowers which are attractive to birds and bees.
 
In its habitat this succulent plant grows in dry thorny scrub on limestone soils.

Aloe vera
Above: June 2008,  
RHS Wisley.  

Aloe vera  Burman fil. 1768 Syn. A. barbadensis, A. officinalis (Medicinal Aloe)
This species has been so widely naturalised and grown as a medicinal plant that its exact region of origin is a mystery. However, it's origin was probably within the Arabian peninsula. Aloe vera is probably the best known Aloe and is of considerable economic importance. Extracts of the gel from the center of the succulent leaves are included in all manner of pharmaceutical preparations for the skin, treatment of burns and for ingestion. However, some people have allergic reactions to substances in the yellow sap under the epidermis.
 
The large (2 ft) blue-green, tapered, fleshy succulent leaves forming a loose stemless rosette, have prominently toothed margins. The leaves of some clones are marked with white spots but this is a variable feature. The 2 - 3 ft inflorescence is a spike of golden-yellow tubular flowers. Some clones have orange flowers. Roots are fibrous and form a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi.

Offsets are produced freely at the base of the rosettes and may be removed for propagation, which is no harder than sticking the cutting into some gritty soil. Aloe vera is not hardy and is damaged by any significant amount of frost. However, it is an undemanding house plant and a popular flowering plant for dry landscaping in Mediterranean climates.

Aloe volkensii Aloe volkensii

Aloe volkensii  Engler 1895
This small tree Aloe has a single trunk carrying a large, dense rosette of smooth, dull olive-green leaves with marginal teeth and tapering to a browmish tip. The branching inflorescence forms a dense cluster of racemes of tubular orange-red flowers held close to the rosette. Plants grow up to 20ft tall but begin flowering at a smaller size.
 
Distributed across Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Zanzibar, growing up to 5000 ft above sea level. The succulent leaves have traditional uses for healing skin lesions, as a purgative and an anti-worming agent.

Aloe yemenica

Aloe yemenica  JRI Wood 1983
In their habitat, these Aloes often hang down cliffs. Their succulent leaves have small marginal teeth. The inflorescence consists of one or more racemes of densely-packed tubular red or yellow flowers.
 
Native to modest elevations in Saudi Arabia and the Yemen.

Aloe sp. Aloe sp.

Aloe sp.
A distinctive plant labelled as Aloe reitzii which should have long racemes of red flowers with yellow interiors, so this is clearly something else. It resembles Aloe elegans.
 
Rosettes of lanceolate grey-green succulent leaves with reddish-brown marginal teeth. The branched inflorescence has short, dense, cylindrical racemes of yellow flowers with exserted stamens.

Aloe sp. Aloe sp.

Aloe sp.
A plant with an attractive branching raceme of flowers.
Labelled as A. longifolia (Baker 1888)   but this appears to be an invalid name once applied to a plant that was moved into Kniphofia.

Gasteraloe hybrids
 
It is possible to cross some species of Aloe and Gasteria to produce attractive intergeneric hybrids.

Aloe x Cosmo

Aloe x "Cosmo" = Aloe aristata x Gasteria batesiana
This hybrid makes a large, compact 6 - 8 in rosette formed from thickened, triangular dark green succulent leaves, with tiny marginal teeth, a terminal spine and white pustulate spots on the outer leaf surface, fewer on the inner surface. The inflorescence is a spike of tubular orange-yellow flowers on a long stem which may branch.
 
Although one parent is certainly cold-wet hardy, the hardiness of this new hybrid is unknown. The plant has been registered and can not be sold except from the original source.

go to top  Cultivation of Aloes

Partial to full sun suits most species of Aloe. The larger Aloes enjoy more direct sunlight than the smaller species as they would normally grow through and above protective vegetation. However, strong sunlight may be needed to develop the attractively bronzed foliage that some Aloes develop in their habitat. Many Aloes produce spectacular racemes of packed tubular yellow, orange or red flowers and are of considerable horticultural merit for the tropical garden or larger glasshouse. Numerous small species can be grown and will produce their showy flowers on a sunny window ledge. Aloes may be grown from seed but hybridise freely between species in flower at the same time. Some inter-specific Aloe hybrids are available as well as Aloe x Gasteria hybrids.
 
Watering regimes should reflect whether the plant is from a summer or winter rainfall area. Some species can be remarkably sensitive to water at the wrong time of year while they are resting. Although most species tolerate cool dry winter conditions, few species are sufficiently hardy to withstand cold wet winter weather in the UK and similar climates.
 
Notable exceptions include the near-alpines, Aloe aristata, Aloe polyphylla and Aloe striatula. My hardy Aloes are potted up in frost-resistant clay pots with plenty of crocking. A potting mixture containing around half to two-thirds granite chippings added to my usual free-draining cactus mix is suitable for hardy succulents kept outside and not dissimilar to the way one sees plants growing in their habitat.

go to top  Diseases of Aloes

Aloes are susceptible to many pests and diseases affecting cacti and succulent plants.
 
Aloe mite, an Eriophyid mite Eriophyes aloinis causes severe damage and galling to some species of Aloe. Other members of the Aloaceae may also be at risk. The vermiform mites are microscopic and spread mainly by the wind or by contact. The infestation causes irregular uncontrolled growth on the leaves and inflorescence, not unlike a vegetable cancer with many finger-like projections.
 
The growths are dependant on the mites, which secrete a growth hormone-like substance to induce a protective gall. Although the damage is not reversible, it will not progress if the mites are removed with a miticide. For frost hardy Aloes, exposure to freezing temperatures will kill the mites. However quarantine of new plants, good hygiene and disposal of infected material or whole plants is the most effective solution to prevent the disease from spreading.
 
Aloe rust is a fungus that causes round brown or black spots on leaves of Aloes and Gasterias. It is of some importance in commercial cultivation of Aloe vera. The black colour is caused by oxidation of phenolic substances in the sap which seals of the affected area. Once formed, the black spots are permanent and can be unsightly, but do not usually spread. Fungi can be discouraged by spraying with a systemic fungicide, but prevention is the best option. Do not allow water to lie on the leaves for long and avoid excess damp in cool weather. Arrange for plenty of air circulation and sunlight.
 
Aloe scales are small flat, oval scale insects with white shields. Larger scale insects with reddish-brown shields may also be a problem. The insect underneath the scale sucks sap from the plant and may spread viruses and other diseases. Scale insects tend to live in colonies on the leaf surface. Scales are usually quite sensitive to systemic insecticides such as those based on Imidacloprid.

go to top  Aloaceae Literature

 
Aloes: The Definitive Guide by S. Carter, L. E. Newton, J. J. Lavranos, C. C. Walker
Hardback     ISBN-13: 9781842464397     Pub. Date: August 2011 icon
 
Aloes in Southern Africa by Gideon Smith & Braam van Wyk
Paperback     ISBN-13: 9781770074620     Pub. Date: 09/01/2008
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The Aloes of South Africa by G.W. Reynolds (1982) 4th Edition
Publisher: A.A. Balkema, Cape Town, South Africa. ISBN: 0-86961-128-3
- out of print classic but often available second-hand.
 
South African Aloes by B. Jeppe (1977) 2nd Edition.
Publisher: Purnell, Cape Town, South Africa. ISBN: 360-00018-5
- out of print, many species illustrated with colour drawings.
 
Gasterias of South Africa: A New Revision of a Major Succulent Group by E.J. van Jaarsveld (1994)
Publisher: Fernwood Press (Pty) Ltd., Vlaeberg, South Africa. ISBN: 1-874950-01-6
- a beautifully illustrated classic, often available second-hand icon
 
Haworthia and Astroloba: A Collector's Guide by John Pilbeam (1983)
Publisher: B.T. Batsford Ltd., London. United Kingdom. ISBN: 0-7134-0534-1
- out of print classic but often available second-hand.
 
Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Monocotyledons Edited by Urs Eggli (2001)
Publisher: Springer-Verlag New York. ISBN: 3540416927
Volume relevant to Aloes from a series of comprehensive taxonomic treatments of succulent plants. icon