Aloe gariepensis

 

Photo: Ivan Latti

Author: Ivan Latti

In flower Aloe gariepensis can be an imposing presence in the usually bleak, exposed, short scrub of the far Northern Cape. Look for it from Keimoes to the Gariep mouth, on both sides of the river. The specimen in picture has a short stem covered in desiccated foliage, typical of mature plants of the species.

Up to five simple, unbranched inflorescences may arise simultaneously in one flowering season from a rosette in its prime. Looking carefully, it appears as if this plant has done just that. A raceme may stand up to 1,2 m tall. Buds point upwards, sagging to horizontal positions around the time when they open and further down when they are pollinated. This brings about a slightly wider mid-section to the raceme that is characteristically very straight, tall and thin. 

Open perianths of red flowering specimens of A. gariepensis usually turn yellow, rendering the raceme bicoloured. This plant does not seem to comply, or maybe it is to early and still to happen.

In spite of popularity with gardeners, numbers in the veld are not causing concern early in the 21st century yet. Perhaps Aloe aficionados are learning that this is not one of the species that flourishes in captivity (Reynolds, 1974; Van Wyk and Smith, 2003; Jeppe, 1969).

 

Photo: Ivan Latti

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe gariepensis leaf rosette

The characteristic lines along the length of the leaf surfaces of this Aloe gariepensis plant can be observed on the rosette. Also the small light-coloured, spaced teeth on the leaf edges are clearly visible. The rosette looks healthy, well cared for in glass-house conditions at the University of Stellenbosch. Stressed plants may look much redder when the metabolism is slowed down by living conditions close to survival limits.

No flower was found on this specimen photographed in March as flowering occurs from July to September (Van Wyk and Smith, 2003).

Aloe gariepensis, the yellow flowering form

 

Author: Ivan Latti

As the name indicates, one finds Aloe gariepensis close to the Gariep, previously the Orange River. It thrives in the hot and dry climate of those parts of the Northern Cape. The leaves have characteristic longitudinal lines and the young plants have many leaf spots as well. The spots persist only in some plants. Leaf margins have sharp teeth and a horn-like rim.

Not all the plants have light yellow flowers as the specimen in picture, as many have red buds that only turn yellow when the flowers open. The long thin racemes are characteristic.

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