Aloe claviflora in seed.png

Photo: Thabo Maphisa

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe claviflora

Quite a sight, Aloe claviflora in full bloom! Apart from the kraalaalwyn common name, the plant has acquired further Afrikaans names in its inland distribution area of the Great Karoo, western Free State, Northern Cape and Namibia:

Aanteelaalwyn (breeding aloe) relates to the dividing of rosettes and suckering that creates the kraals of clumped rosettes, the young ones tilting outwards, always being added on the outside around the oldest one in the centre.

Laeraalwyn (encampment or laager aloe) refers to the same feature.

Kanonaalwyn (cannon aloe) comes from the angled racemes that can be observed in the photo. The direction of the angle seems to favour the sun, racemes at the “back of the ring” tend to attempt redirection, ending up pointing upwards and extending the flowering season by opening later.

While the angle of a cannon barrel is determined by the distance to the target, it is not quite clear why some of these racemes sag to almost horizontal positions. In the land of the living willpower often tests gravity (Reynolds, 1974; Jeppe, 1969).

Aloe claviflora budding

Author: Ivan Latti

The dense population of buds on this Aloe claviflora raceme are interspersed with acutely pointed green bracts, each attached at the base of a bud’s pedicel. Below the flowers on the sturdy green peduncle of the raceme, a few more papery bracts are scattered, sterile without flowers to subtend.

The raceme is cylindrical, tapering towards its tip. One or sometimes two inflorescences will be produced per rosette. Unlike the single raceme of this inflorescence, there may be two racemes branching from one peduncle, rarely as many as four. Racemes as long as 50 cm may be found (Reynolds, 1974; Jeppe, 1969).

Aloe claviflora club-shaped flowers

Author: Ivan Latti

The individual flowers or perianths of Aloe claviflora start off fairly red once the maturing buds discard their initial green colour, to turn gradually paler again in their last phase. Once they open, some creamy yellow creeps in, to be followed by whitish ivory after pollination. Near the segment tips some green lingers in the centre of each segment. The perianth tubes deviate from cylindrical by being somewhat trigonous or three-angled. The inner three segments comprising each perianth are broader than the outer three and have white margins. Segments taper gradually into their pedicels, helping to accentuate the club-shape, the club’s head being near the mouth. The clavate shape (club shape) of the perianths that gave this Aloe its specific name of claviflora is evident in the flowers hanging down in the raceme in picture.

The tips of the stamens are far exserted by the filaments growing longer than the perianth segments, forcing the buds open. Segment tips curve outwards after this force had been applied to them. The anthers appear black when just emerging, swelling out into the yellow lobes that later become a shiny translucent brown. The inner three stamens are thinner, growing long first to present their pollen, followed by the outer three, thus prolonging the period of offering viable pollen. The thin whitish style may also be discernible among the stamens here (Reynolds, 1974; Jeppe, 1969).

Aloe claviflora in seed.png

Photo: Thabo Maphisa

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe claviflora in seed

Aloe claviflora is multi-stemmed, although the stems are short; every rosette being positioned at ground level. Claviflora means club-shaped flowers.

The clumps formed by the continual addition of new rosettes through division and suckering on the outside, become rings once the older, inner rosettes start dying off. These rings of obliquely outward leaning rosettes around central open patches (or sometimes semicircles from mishaps befalling some of the rosettes in the ring over the years), are the “kraals” referred to in the Afrikaans name of kraalaalwyn. Rural farmers in the part of the world where A. claviflora grows, all used to have kraals for keeping livestock safe at night.

The sickle-shaped leaves, blue-green to pale pinkish in colour, have a thick, rough texture with sharp, dark prickles along their margins and keels. Note the healthy looking, fleshy leaves at the start of the dry season, but already the died-off leaf tips from the harsh sun of the Great Karoo.

This photo was taken near Beaufort West where the plant in picture had produced much seed by late October, presently in the process of releasing it (Van Wyk and Smith, 2003).

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