Aloe maculata

The flat-topped (capitate as opposed to conical) raceme of Aloe maculata also occurs in some other spotted, stemless aloes. They include A. affinis, A. petrophila, A. prinslooi, A. swynnertonii, A. umfoloziensis and A. vogtsii. Several of those have much narrower or less spotted leaves and more branches in the panicles. Some also have very localised, small distributions, unlike A. maculata, previously known as A. saponaria. A. maculata was described by Reynolds (1974) as the most variable among the spotted aloes.

The plant in the photo shows signs of a comparatively easy life, with little evidence of the characteristic dried out leaf tips. It has a bulge at the base of the perianths that is usually clear to see, as are the papery bracts at the peduncle branching points and higher up. The perianths hold their colour throughout flowering (Reynolds, 1974; Van Wyk and Smith, 2003).

 

Photo: Ivan Latti

Author: Ivan Latti

 

Photo: Ivan Latti

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe maculata rosette

Aloe maculata is named for its leaf spots. Maculata means spotted or blotched. There is, however, a large variety of low growing or stemless, spotted aloes in South Africa that are sometimes hard to distinguish. A. maculata is thought to be one of the easier ones to identify from its fellow spotted species. Whilst quite variable as a species, the flat topped racemes and uniformly coloured flowers contribute to the identification. For some time this plant used to be known as A. saponaria, which brought about the common name of soap aloe.

A. maculata grows in grassland, on rocky outcrops and among open scrub in both summer and winter rainfall areas. It also does well in a variety of soil types. The large distribution area has some discontinuities as the plant occurs in the Cape Peninsula, a section of the southern Cape coastal area and parts of the Transkei, Kwazulu-Natal, Lesotho, the Free State and Zimbabwe.

The leaves are thick and succulent, triangular and spotted all over. Marginal teeth are sharp and brown with no spines on the leaf surfaces. The leaf tips are usually dry and twisted with exceptions caused by the availability of semi-shade and ample water. 

The plant in picture is a case in point, growing in the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Flower colour varies from yellow, orange and red to pink. Flowering time varies to coincide with the dry season (summer in the Cape, late winter in the north-eastern parts).  Plants are mainly stemless, but not always. They grow solitary or form clumps through suckering (Van Wyk and Smith, 2003; Jeppe, 1969).

 

Photo: Ivan Latti

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe maculata X striata hybrid

These Aloe maculata X striata hybrid leaf rosettes adorn the lodge garden at Kagga Kamma in the Ceres Karoo, probably planted there. Happy in the open in sandy soil, the lush plant has multiplied its rosettes well, flowering in September.

The blue-green leaves with some faint purplish near their tips usually have pale surface spots and even or regular toothing, small and sharpish along the margins.

Both the spots and teeth originate from the A. maculata parent plant, A. striata having neither. Pink leaf margins and frequent branching of the inflorescence come from A. striata.

The capitate or flat-topped inflorescences start off with green-brown buds. The open flowers appear in several shades of red without yellow colour change of perianths when they open, although some altogether yellowish flowering forms occur. The open perianths nod, some of the buds starting off erectly in each compact head. Flowering happens from autumn to spring.

Reynolds names seven Aloe species that have been recorded as hybridising with A. maculata, or A. saponaria as it was still called in his time. He anticipates that there may be more. A. striata is among the seven, bringing about a popular, much planted and quick growing cross (Reynolds, 1974; Van Wyk and Smith, 2003).

 

Photo: Ivan Latti

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe maculata X striata hybrid flowering

Aloe hybrids are a feature of nature as well as of specialised, painstaking horticulture. Aloe maculata hybridises readily with other Aloe species that flower concurrently. As it may flower in winter in the summer rainfall areas of its large habitat and also in summer in the Cape Peninsula, the Mediterranean or winter rainfall part of its fragmented distribution, many opportunities for such events occur. This is true both in nature and the many gardens where this plant is grown today.

The flowers in picture may be from one of the notable and very common hybrids popular with gardeners. The other partner in forming this new plant is generally recognised as a common and popular cultivar, is A. striata. The maculata X striata cross grows strongly and flowers profusely. Planting groups of them in well-drained soil in open sunlight yields striking effects. Or plant just one and it forms its own clump. Just give it time (Van Wyk and Smith, 1996).

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