Aloe microstigma flowering

The inflorescence of Aloe microstigma is an unbranched, narrow, oblong to conical raceme of up to 1 m. Two or three racemes may grow simultaneously on mature plants in good condition. The buds are red or orange, remaining orange or turning yellow upon opening, as in the specimen in picture. The bicolour form is more prevalent.

The bud tips initially show a bluish-grey colour. The bracts at the base of the individual flower pedicels (stalks) are small, not covering the perianths even in bud, although not all the relevant literature agrees with this. The individual flowers or perianths bulge near the centre.

This Aloe species responds well in cultivation, provided that the soil is well-drained and the plant's position is protected from too much cold (Reynolds, 1974).

 

Photo: Thabo Maphisa

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe microstigma getting ready

These two snake-like, bud-laden beginnings of Aloe microstigma racemes are set for the customary winter celebrations.

Many sterile bracts, pale, short and broad are present below the lowest flower buds, spaced upon the dark brown-green peduncles. The bracts are about triangular in shape, decreasing in size up the stalks. Similar bracts subtend each of the flowers of the raceme as well.

The flower buds are not spaced at this time, compressed in their stout cylinders that hold so much yet to unfold. A. microstigma inflorescences are unbranched. They may grow to lengths of 60 cm to 80 cm (Reynolds, 1974).

 

Photo: Ivan Latti

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe microstigma in habitat

The distribution of Aloe microstigma lies in the inland Karoo-like, arid environment of the Western, Eastern and Northern Cape, as well as in southern Namibia. The plants grow on the flat scrub plains and rocky slopes among the shrubs that characterise this terrain. This photo was taken in March in the Agtervinkrivier region between Worcester and Robertson.

The profusion of plants is typical of what can be seen in its distribution area, the plant not currently being threatened. The winter visitor will be presented with less stressed plants, blooming red and yellow in slightly greener looking veld. This is a truly exhilarating sight.

Stems can be observed on some of the plants in the foreground of this photo. Plants may lean over, trail or be procumbent on stems of up to 50 cm. The dry leaves persist on the stems (Van Wyk and Smith, 2003).

 

Photo: Ivan Latti

Author: Ivan Latti

 

Photo: Ivan Latti

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe microstigma leaf rosette

Aloe microstigma leaves are variable, blue-green to reddish green with many (or few, or on rare ones near Robertson, sometimes without) small white spots scattered over both upper and lower surfaces. The second adjectival part of the scientific name, the specific epithet, microstigma, means small mark in Greek. The leaf surfaces are free of spines, but along the margins there are sharp and rigid, evenly spaced, reddish brown teeth or prickles. These defences bring second thoughts to potential enemies who might mean harm to the plant.

The leaf-shape is long, thick with succulence, forming an isosceles triangle from the base and tapering to an acute-angled tip. The leaf curvature varies from bow-shaped (curving inward when stressed or outward on young branches) to S-shaped with outwardly arched tips, while the lower part bend inwards or upwards from the base. There is also a measure of twisting and sideways curvature in some leaves (Van Wyk and Smith, 2003; Reynolds

Aloe microstigma perianth colours

Closed red buds and open yellow flowers show the perianth colour contrast common in Aloe microstigma. Perianth length is around 2,5 cm to 3 cm.

The shiny, cylindrical flower formed by two whorls of three perianth segments each is often slightly swollen around its midsection. The outer three segments are free to the base. They have three to five nerves that are green near the slightly spreading, pointed segment tip. The inner segments are free and not cohering with the outer ones. Their tips are obtusely pointed and spreading.

The anthers and stigma become exserted shortly after the perianth mouth opens. The inner three stamens lengthen first, pushing their anthers out early. The outer three follow by the lengthening of their filaments to take their place outside the older flower, enhancing the pollination probability by thus extending the pollen presentation period (Reynolds, 1974).

 

Photo: Ivan Latti

Author: Ivan Latti

 

Photo: Ivan Latti

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe microstigma showing seasonal stress

The red colour often perceived on Aloe microstigma leaves indicates the plant’s reaction to stress factors of heat, drought and sometimes more. This phenomenon is seasonally or otherwise reduced by moisture, moderate temperatures and other conditions conducive to favourable growth, flowering and seed production.

The taller outside leaves curve inwards in extreme heat, providing shade to the younger inner growth, thereby serving to reduce the plant’s temperature. When life is easier, the leaves may again open into the characteristic S-curve of the flourishing days, when more sunlight is absorbed for boosting photosynthesis and consequently the available nourishment.

Healthy plants in habitat normally have comfortable and stressed phases, changing appearance in accordance with living conditions. Plants lack the human propensity for continually searching greater comfort after survival requirements have been met. Animals are similar to plants in this, making humanity the only species threatening the survival of most, by over-management of the environment to suit its every want (Van Wyk and Smith, 2003; Wikipedia).

Aloe microstigma subsp. microstigma

The tall-stemmed Namaqualand version of Aloe microstigma used to be called A. microstigma subsp. microstigma and earlier A. khamiesensis. The subspecies is probably no longer upheld but is shown here as it differs quite a bit from the regular A. microstigma plants of the Western Cape also described on this Site.

Usually bearing a single rosette, occasionally a pair, the leaves have roundish white marks and red-brown teeth along the margins. Below the pale, many-leaved rosettes the dense dry leaves, initially brown, tend to darken with age. They persist in a broad, hard mass around the well-concealed stem, not revealing even a slight bit of bare stem at the bottom, as some stem-aloes do.

The stand in picture grows in the Goegap Nature Reserve at the foot of a typical klipkop (rock head) on the edge of a sandy plain (Le Roux, et al, 2005).

 

Photo: Jack Latti

Author: Ivan Latti

 

Photo: Jack Latti

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe microstigma subsp. microstigma audacious leaves

When Aloe microstigma subsp. microstigma leaves curve down at their tips, the conventional growth pattern has been exceeded or violated. Daring behaviour may be frowned upon in staunch human society. Unconventional curves in Aloe World receive no reprimand. "Frowning" is here only caused by moisture loss or compressed skin in a curving body part.

Who knows the latent sensibilities that may lurk in the phylogenetic origins of a "psyche" in any neighbouring species, animal or plant? Safe to assume there can be no such thing? We are so rational, our scientific tradition so advanced... and yet!

When these leaves do not continue straight, angling up as is typical, the possibility of hybridisation should be considered. What partner might have contributed the other gene here in the Goegap veld near Springbok is unclear. A. microstigma is known to hybridise with both A. ferox and A. africana, the latter hybrid quite likely to produce leaves in the shape of an S-curve. But neither of these species occur anywhere near the Namaqualand Klipkoppe, restricted to the south and southeast of the country.

The general habit of A. microstigma in the Western Cape does include the occasional plant bearing leaf rosettes formed of S-curve leaves, their tips curving out; or a few such leaves per rosette.

So, maybe this is just a “normal” A. microstigma or A. microstigma subsp. microstigma with tired leaf tips acknowledging gravity (Le Roux, et al, 2005; Reynolds, 1974).

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