Photo: Ivan Latti

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe micracantha

Aloe micracantha, sometimes commonly called the wateraalwyn (water aloe), is a small, but robust grass aloe of the Eastern Cape (Grahamstown to Joubertina). Winter grass fire plays a role in the well-being of the species. The plant, occasionally branched is generally single-stemmed, also short-stemmed from thick, long roots sometimes referred to as fusiform.

The spiralling rosette is made up of long, narrow, succulent leaves, dark green with white spots on both surfaces. Twelve to eighteen leaves are grown that become up to 50 cm long and only 3 cm wide at the base. Leaf margins turn up a little, occasionally much. Leaf tips are acutely pointed. The leaf sap is clear.

Previously called A. microcantha, both specific name forms mean small thorns, referring to the tiny, soft, leaf margin spines. The leaf rosette is normally more upright than seen in this cultivated plant. In nature, the leaves normally wither in winter; the photo was taken in June.

The inflorescence is unbranched and head-like, comprising large flowers (perianths); technically described as capitate-corymbose. Flower colour is salmon to strawberry pink, the ovary coloured the same as the segments. This plant flowers from midsummer to early autumn.

The habitat is exposed slopes in sandy soils and stony places at elevations between 50 m and 700 m. The species is considered nearly threatened from habitat loss early in the twenty first century (Craib, et al, 2005; Reynolds, 1974; Van Wyk and Smith, 2003; Jeppe, 1969; www.redlist.sanbi.org).

Aloe micracantha

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