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Aloes are characteristic of the African continent, where most species occur. There are over 20 species of Aloe in South Africa, ranging from small flowering succulents to large trees.

Aloes are often grown as house plants or in conservatories in Britain. 
The name aloe is probably derived from the Greek alsos or the Arabic alloeh or the Hebrew allal, and refers to the bitter juice from these plants.
A few species are shown here. If we have attributed the wrong species name to any of the photos, please let us know using "contact us" at the bottom of this page.

Aloe arborescens

Aloe arborescens, commonly known as the krantz aloe (English), kransaalwyn (Afrikaans), ikalene (Xhosa), inkalane or umhlabana (Zulu), was one of the first South African aloes collected and planted in the Company Garden in Cape Town by the early European settlers.
Aloe arborescens develops into a multi-headed shrub 2-3m high with striking grey green leaves arranged in rosettes. The large colourful flower spikes are borne in profusion during the winter from May to July.
South Africa Holiday: Aloe arborescens on Table Mountain, Cape Town
It is adapted to many habitats, but is usually found in mountainous areas where it favours exposed ridges and rocky outcrops. It occurs from the Western Cape along the eastern coast, through KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
Aloe arborescens has many medicinal properties and is also used by traditional healers in muthi. The amaZulu use the dried crushed leaves as a protection against storms. Extracts of the leaves are also used in childbirth and in treating sick calves. In the Transkei it is used for stomach ache and given to chickens to prevent sickness. In the Orient, this aloe is grown in domestic gardens as a convenient first-aid treatment for burn wounds and abrasions. In fact it was only after. After the dropping of the atom bomb of Hiroshima it was used to treat irradiation burns. Extracts from the leaves have been widely investigated since and show significant wound healing properties.

Aloe ferox

Aloe ferox, commonly known as the bitter aloe or red aloe (English); bitteraalwyn or bergaalwyn (Afrikaans); iNhlaba (Zulu) and iKhala (Xhosa), best known for its medicinal qualities as a laxative, a treatment for arthritis, for its wound healing properties and an ingredient in many cosmetics.
South Africa Holiday: Aloe ferox in the Company Gardens, Cape Town
It grows mainly in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal and can be found growing both in the open and in bushy areas, on rocky hill slopes and in grassy fynbos.
Aloe ferox is a tall single stemmed aloe that can reach 2-3m high with the leaves arranged in a rosette at its apex. The old leaves remain after they have dried, forming a "petticoat" on the stem. The flowers occur in winter between May and August and are carried in a large candelabra-like flower-head. Their colour varies from yellowy-orange to bright red.

Lekker Links

PlantZAfrica.com: Aloe arborescens
PlantZAfrica.com: Aloe barberae
PlantZAfrica.com: Aloe dichotoma
PlantZAfrica.com: Aloe ferox

Aloe dichotoma

Aloe dichotoma, commonly known as the quiver tree (English) or kokerboom (Afrikaans) is one of the best known aloes in South Africa.
This distinctive tree aloe generally has smooth branches. The bark on the trunk forms golden brown scales, the edges of which are very sharp. The blue-green leaves are borne on terminal rosettes. Bright yellow flowers are borne in winter during June and July. Sugar birds are drawn to these to feed on the nectar.
Aloe dichotoma is a very tough tree and may reach an age of over 80 years and a height of 7m. It is a conspicuous component of the arid parts of the Northern Cape commonly known as Namaqualand and Bushmanland. The three trees depicted here were photographed in the Augrabies Falls National Park
South Africa Holiday: Aloe dichotoma (Quiver tree or Kokerboom) in Augrabies Falls National ParkIt is not uncommon for the branches of these trees to support huge communal nest of sociable weaver that live and breed by the thousands.
There is an interesting description of Aloe dichotoma made by Simon van der Stel (Governor of the Cape of Good Hope) in 1685 on his northward journey to the Copper Mountains near present-day Springbok. His record reads, "Its trunk is sometimes 12 feet high, and it has a beautiful, clear and copious sap from which excellent gumma aloes could probably be made in large quantities. Its bark is rather hard but the pith is soft, light and spongy. The branches of the trees are used by the natives (Bushmen) as quivers for their arrows. They hollow them out and cover the one end with a piece of leather and thus skilfully make from this tree, which they call Choje, a strong and serviceable quiver. October 15th".

Aloe barberae

South Africa Holiday: Aloe barberae in the Company Gardens, Cape TownAloe barberae, commonly known as the tree aloe (English); boomaalwyn or mikaalwyn (Afrikaans); imPondonndo, inDlabendlazi or umGxwala (Zulu), is a striking sculptural aloe, often bearing a rounded, neat crown.
South Africa Holiday: Aloe barberae at the President's Residence (Tuynhuis), Cape TownAloe barberae is Africa's largest aloe reaching up to 15m high. The racemes are cylindrical and its tubular flowers rose pink and appear during winter (June and July).
It is widely distributed from the Eastern Cape, through KwaZulu-Natal,  Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
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