Aloe castanea

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe castanea received the specific epithet of castanea for the eponymous colour designation, chestnut. The red-brown perianths have inner segments broader than the outer three free ones. The inner three anthers as well as the outer ones are in turn excerted.

Copious quantities of dark nectar, sticky and sweet, are produced. This is much valued by birds, as well as bees and other insect pollinators. The up to 1 m long, unbranched raceme with its characteristic graceful curve and upturned apex earned the plant the name of cat’s tail aloe. The inflorescence in picture has not this year reached its best size (Reynolds, 1974; Jeppe, 1969)

 

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Aloe castanea germinating in favourable

Photo: Jack Latti

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe castanea germinating in favourable conditions

These Aloe castanea seedlings germinated from racemes with seed capsules left in a Magaliesberg garden. Moisture must have been sufficient, temperatures conducive, the seeds did not blow away, insects and birds did not eat them and dry leaf mulch was conveniently available when needed.

Whether they will all turn out to be pure A. castanea plants, remains to be seen as many other aloeflowers appearing concurrently in the neighbourhood could have contributed to hybridisation. Species known to have hybridised in nature with A. castanea include A. burgersfortensis, A. cryptopoda, A. davyana, now A. greatheadii var. davyana, A. globuligemma and A. marlothii. And these species are just the natural habitat neighbours normally sharing the same flowering season with A. castanea. Add to this the simultaneous (winter) flowering species in any large aloegarden and much could happen!

To grow this plant from seed is easy, but waiting for this kind of luck to happen spontaneously in the garden may involve much time (Reynolds, 1974).

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