Aloe albida is a dwarf aloe with small white flowers. This species likes misty mountain grassland habitats and thrives in crevices amongst mossy rocks in areas where grasses are kept fairly short.
Aloe albida usually grows singly or in small groups. The leaves form a rosette and are about 150 x 4-5 mm. The leaves have a waxy coating, which gives them a pale greyish/bluish green colour. There is a single inflorescence (90-150 mm) with small white flowers, and the flowering time is sometimes as early as February, but is usually from late March to April.
It is similar in size and leaf characteristics to A. saundersiae and has similar floral characters to A. myriacantha, although this plant is much larger and its flowers are dull pink (Reynolds 1950).
This species has a conservation status of VU (preliminary assessment from SANBI's Threatened Species Programme) as a result of fairly recent population declines. The declines are as a result of habitat destruction through afforestation, invasion by weeds and by logging operations. Another threat leading to the population decline is over-harvesting from natural populations.
Distribution and Habitat
Aloe albida is found on the mountains in Barberton in Mpumalanga to the northern border of, as well as in parts of Swaziland. This species favours mountainous grasslands, where mists occur. The plants can be found in pockets of soil amongst or in crevices between damp, mossy rocks.
Derivation of name and historical aspects: Aloe albida gets its name from its white flowers, the Latin word albida meaning whitish.
Aloe albida is dependent on fire to clear grasses from their preferred mountainous grassland habitat. In areas where grasses are too thick, this species suffers and will only be found in rocky outcrops where the grasses are shorter.
Uses and cultural aspects
This dainty grassland species is mainly used in horticulture where it makes an attractive dwarf pot plant and is fairly easy to cultivate.
Growing Aloe albida
Aloe albida grows well in cultivation under the right circumstances. This species grows well in terracotta pots and is an ideal container or pot plant. According to Craib (2005) the easiest way to propagate this species is using suckers or seeds. It is important to sow seeds in spring months, giving seedlings a chance to establish before the heat of summer.
It is best to use fine soil. You should then add a small amount of both sieved, sandy soil and sieved, well-rotted leaf mould. Craib (2005) suggests dispersing the seeds evenly over the soil and cover lightly with some of the same soil mixture.
The seeds should germinate within 2-4 weeks. However, some seeds will not germinate in the first year after they have been sown. Ensure that the seedlings receive adequate water, but be careful not to let them get too wet as this can lead to fungal infections.
Keep the plants in light shade and in a well-ventilated area where they receive morning-only sunlight. It is essential to water these plants well throughout the growing season. However, in the winter they should only receive water when the weather is warm. Be careful not to let the containers overheat in summer as this can lead to a root mealy bug infestation.
References and further reading
- Bornman, H. & Hardy, D. 1971. Aloes of the South African veld Voortrekkerpers, Johannesburg.
- Craib, C. 2005. Grass aloes in the South African veld. Umdaus Press, Pretoria.
- Jackson, B.D. 1953. A glossary of botanic terms. Gerald Duckworht, London.
- Jeppe, B. 1969. South African aloes. Purnell, Cape Town.
- Plowden, C. 1970. A manual of plant names. Allen & Unwin, London.
- Reynolds, G.W. 1950. The aloes of South Africa. The Trustees: The Aloes of South Africa Book Fund, Johannesburg.