Bitter Aloe

Aloe ferox

Red Aloe, Cape Aloe, Tap Aloe, Bergaalwyn, Bitteraalwyn (Afr.), Inhlaba (Zulu), Ikhala (Xhosa)

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This evergreen succulent shrub species has a woody stem and blue-green foliage with red-brown spines along the margins. Aloe ferox is able to grow successfully in a wide range of habitats such as mountain slopes, rocky landscapes and flat, open areas. It is mostly known for its medicinal uses, but can also be used for cosmetics, food supplements and the leaves themselves are edible. The beautiful, tubular, red-orange flowers are carried on an erect, branching spike and will bring warmth to any home garden. This is a common feature plant. ZA Distribution: Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape.

Planning

Difficulty

Moderate

Flowering time

Autumn, Winter

Harvesting

Leaves can be harvested once a year in winter after about 18 months after cultivation. Seed can be harvested during spring or summer

Propagation

Seed

Sow seed in a well drained medium in shallow trays and cover lightly with sand in spring. Once the seeds begin to germinate, keep moist but do not overwater. Transplant when they are about 4 cm high.

Cuttings

Cut a stem under a node and allow to dry for a few hours. Place the cutting in a rooting medium and keep moist without over-watering.

Division

When stems are damaged, the sprouts ca be removed and planted as cutting in sand.

Special features

Attracts birds

Aloe ferox attracts many birds, the most popular of which are sunbirds, weavers, glossy starlings and mousebirds.

Attracts useful insects

Insects are attracted by the flowers and will in turn attract insect-eating birds.

Drought resistant

Requires minimal water.

Pot plant

Attractive flowers

The flowers are usually bright orange-red, bright red, yellow and even white forms can be found.

Special features

Origin

Swellendam area of the South Eastern Cape, parts of Lesotho and southern KZN.

Natural climate

Warm temperate, summerrainfall, dry winters

Environment

Light

Full Sun

Soil moisture

Dry

Soil type

Loam, Sand

Soil PH preference

Acid, Neutral, Alkaline

Frost hardiness

Tender

Uses

Medicinal

Leaves have medicinal value.

Culinary

Leaves can be used to make jam.

Personality

Family

Asphodelaceae

Flower colour

Red, Orange, Yellow

Scent

None

Problems

The aloe snout beetle, scale insects, mealy bugs and mites are the primary pests that can be harmful to Aloe ferox. Diseases that are known to hinder Aloe ferox are aloe canker (also called galls), leaf spots, bacterial infections and aloe rust. Few of these will lead to the decline or death of the plant, but will certainly effect their appearance.

Companion plants

Credits

profile iconAloe ferox
by Alice Aubrey, Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden, July 2001 (Copyright South African National Biodiversity Institute, South Africa)