Photo: Ivan Latti

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe rupestris

Aloe rupestris, the bottle-brush aloe previously known as A. nitens, is usually single-stemmed growing tall, from 6 m to 8 m in height (SA Tree List No. 30.3). This plant in cultivation in Melbourne, Australia has many small shoots at its base, a feature that is known to occur, although branches of the main stem are rare.

The upper third of the slender stem below the live leaf rosette disappears under a covering of old leaf remains that are dry and hard.

The species distribution is northern KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland and southern Mozambique. In nature the plant is often found from the coast to mountain slopes up to 1000 m, growing among rocks, trees and thickets in warm valleys. The rainfall in this region is from 625 mm to 750 mm per annum. The region is frost free and day temperatures reach around 38˚. The species is not considered to be threatened in its habitat early in the twenty first century.

These plants need protection from frost. They thrive in alkaline soils; ash and lime additions are useful. A susceptibility to white scale may cause problems (Van Wyk and Smith, 2003; Coates Palgrave, 2002; Pooley, 1993; Reynolds, 1974; Jeppe, 1969; http://redlist.sanbi.org).

Photo: Ivan Latti

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe rupestris rosette

The leaves of Aloe rupestris grow in spiralling ranks into a large, dense rosette. The leaves curve upwards, then outwards, their tips recurving. The long, narrow leaf has small marginal teeth but no surface prickles. About 30 to 40 leaves may occur in a mature rosette, the leaves up to 70 cm long and 10 cm wide.

There is usually red colouring along the leaf margins not seen on this plant growing in the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Australia. Leaf colour is usually dull to dark green, here yellow green. There may be some foreign addition in the ancestry of the plant in picture.

The inflorescence of A. rupestris is branched and rebranched into a wide panicle of up to 18 erect, cylindrical racemes that are both short and broad.

The green-striped perianths start off lemon-yellow upon opening, darkening to a brownish orange as they age. The exserted stamens are red, broadening the raceme where flowers are open and brightening the colour.

Flowers may tend to open earlier on the side of the raceme receiving most sun. Flowering happens late in winter and early in spring (Van Wyk and Smith, 2003; Coates Palgrave, 2002; Pooley, 1993; Reynolds, 1974; Jeppe, 1969).

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