Aloe aculeata in the Royal Botanical Gar

Photo: Jack Latti

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe aculeata

As the specific name aculeata says, it is prickly! The big single rosettes of Aloe aculeata are in winter adorned with impressive yellow or orange inflorescences. Single raceme flowers appear on the younger plants and branched panicles on mature ones. This Aloe is common in parts of the northern provinces of South Africa, particularly in Mpumalanga and Limpopo near Lydenburg and Ohrigstad, as well as over the border in Zimbabwe and Botswana. 

Resemblance to some other species occurs for many life forms on earth, from being distantly related. Features of a plant or animal allow it being placed closer to some and further from others, vague suggestions recognition caused by shared ancestry. Such kinship is sometimes confirmed by scientific verification, showing real historical developmental lines; and sometimes chance played a role in unrelated specimens (Jeppe, 1969).

Aloe aculeata in the Walter Sisulu Natio

Photo: Ivan Latti

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe aculeata in the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden

The leaf rosette of Aloe aculeata becomes 1 m tall and equally as wide. It is usually stemless, or may have a short, procumbent stem. The long, broad leaves, up to 12 cm wide at the base, curve inwards in their upper parts, bringing about a rounded look to the rosette. Leaf colour is dull green or grey-green. Both leaf surfaces as well as the margins are covered in numerous scattered spines, arising from thick tubercular bases. These tubercles are paler in the northerly parts of the plant’s distribution, appearing whitish against the green of the leaf.

The raceme of tubular perianths is densely flowered, narrow and tapering to its top. The flowers may be bicoloured with orange to red buds becoming yellow when opening, or remaining single coloured, orange or yellow. Flowering starts late in autumn and is over before the end of winter.

The plant is known to hybridise in nature with several other Aloe species.  This often causes difficulties for those attempting plant identification, but none to strollers just admiring the flowers or workers distributing the pollen (Van Wyk and Smith, 2003; Jeppe, 1969).

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