Photo: Thabo Maphisa

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe lineata var. muirii

Aloe lineata var. muirii is normally single-stemmed, rarely branched. When branching occurs, it may be low down, but not always. The leaves show longitudinal red lines as the specific name lineata suggests. The leaf margins have prominent red teeth, the blade surfaces are smooth.

The salmon pink (and here yellow) flowers grow in erect unbranched racemes. The last flower or perianth of any Aloe raceme to open is always right at its top or tip; flowering commencing with the lowermost ones.

Look at the surrounding vegetation of this Aloe: A plant may be effectively established in a habitat without resembling any of the other species around it. Still, it belongs there as its place in nature. From the perspective of the plant, its setting fits because it can survive the challenges posed and live in the available conditions. From a people perspective the plant may belong there because it has always been there.

Plants just live, decisions about domicile reflected simply in the fact of survival wherever chance had dropped the seed. Failure happens often, almost certainly when a seed lands naturally beyond the boundaries of the species distribution, unless the boundaries are being pushed. Many die even inside those boundaries for new life is also statistically a miracle. There is no brain available to plan for surmounting every conceivable obstacle. Becoming a plague, a weed, is also a brainless event, whenever conditions become too favourable.

People sometimes want to decide for everything they see about what should be. This delusion, feeling capable of improving on nature, may be overcome by better thinking.

This majestic hilltop specimen of Aloe lineata var. muirii, in Afrikaans commonly the streepaalwyn (stripe aloe), grows south of Oudtshoorn where renosterveld blends into fynbos.

A. lineata var. muirii is found in the Little Karoo, from Ladismith to the Outeniqua Mountains and south of the mountains near Riversdale around the Garcia Pass. The other variety is distributed more easterly: var. lineata grows in the Eastern Cape near Addo and as far east as Grahamstown, mainly in Suurberg Mountains. Differences include larger marginal teeth and bolder, reddish leaf striations on var. muirii.

The stout stem of A. lineata is usually covered in dry leaves below the live rosette, although bare lower stems may be seen on old plants. The plant in picture differs in the brownish seasonal leaf discoloration and its open perianths being pink, not yellow. (The yellow colouring raises questions.)

Papery, sterile bracts are scattered more or less spirally around the dark maroon-brown peduncles below the dense covering of withered flowers transforming into fruit. Flower stalks of yesteryear protrude downwards from among the dead leaf detritus.

Flowering happens from midsummer to early autumn for var. lineata, while var. muirii should flower in late winter to spring. The photo was taken early in April, the plant not in keeping with its variety, or affected by the extreme dryness of the 2017 season.

There may be as many as four unbranched racemes presenting flowers partly sequenced; here the three are simultaneous (Van Wyk and Smith, 2003; Reynolds, 1974; Jeppe, 1969).

Aloe lineata var. muirii centre of a rosette

This stem-tip close-up of the leaves of Aloe lineata var. muirii shows the leaf colouring, the leaf surface lines and the mainly backwards curving of the marginal spines. The spines are fairly evenly spaced, pale in their upper parts, and, of course, hard and sharp as weaponry should be.

Living in exposed hill top conditions in the veld, even the young leaves show signs of damage, some tips shrivelled up from a still ongoing period of prolonged drought. Dark spots on the leaf surfaces are also not normal leaf features, their cause unknown.

The hardy plant still has a lot going for it to ride out yet another trying period before blooming will herald a happier life phase.

 

Photo: Thabo Maphisa

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe lineata var. muirii differences in resilience

The two leaf rosettes of Aloe lineata var. muirii on their lonely hilltop show different colours, experiencing the seasonal hard times in different degrees of intensity.

Rain will bring improvement in the colouring of both, as well as more new leaves in the centre. And most likely some flowers.

 

Photo: Thabo Maphisa

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe lineata var. muirii green rosette centre

Aloe lineata var. muirii, the Little Karoo variety of A. lineata, has a brighter yellow-green to orange-green leaf colouring and its longitudinal leaf lines are more distinct and defined. The marginal toothing is slightly larger than on var. lineata of the Eastern Cape thicket and Riversdale.

Flowering times are also different: var. lineata flowers from January to March and var. muirii from June to November (Reynolds, 1974; http://redlist.sanbi.org).

 

Photo: Thabo Maphisa

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe lineata var. muirii many-leaved rosette

The expertise of Kirstenbosch plant caregivers grants this Aloe lineata var. muirii leaf rosette head start over its natural habitat counterparts.

The numerous, narrow leaves taper to thin, far-protruding tips. Only the young centre has much green, turning to orange-green and red-brown soon, starting from the tips and progressing closer to the base on older leaves.

A healthy plant bears thirty to forty leaves in its compact rosette, their average length about 30 cm and 7 cm wide at the base in the lowest live leaves of the rosette. In the really large to exceptional rosettes these dimensions increase to 40 cm long and 9 cm wide (Reynolds, 1974; http://redlist.sanbi.org).

 

Photo: Thabo Maphisa

Author: Ivan Latti

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