succotrina is an attractive aloe from the Western Cape and
thrives in gardens growing fynbos and strandveld plants. The name
Aloe succotrina is a result of historical confusion. This
is a Cape plant and does not grow naturally on the Indian Ocean
island of Socotra, but for many years the origin of this plant
remained a mystery. It was only in 1906 that a precise locality
for Aloe succotrina was recorded at the Cape.
It was the first aloe from South Africa to be introduced into
Europe. It flowered in Amsterdam in 1689. An illustration of Aloe
succotrina first appeared in 1691 in Plukenet's "Phytographia"
and shortly afterwards it was figured by Jan Monickx (1689-1690)
in Commelin's "Hort. Amst" in 1697. Although it found
its way to Europe so early, this aloe does not appear on the famous
list of aloes cultivated in the Dutch East India Company's garden
in 1695, drawn up by Oldenland, the superintendent at the time.
Plants of Aloe succotrina are cluster-forming and can grow
to 1,5 m. tall, but are usually 1 m. tall. Leaves form dense rosettes.
Leaves are ascending curved and tapering; 500 X 100 mm in size;
dull green to greyish-green with scattered white spots. The margins
have firm, white, triangular teeth.
simple flower spikes grow to a metre and appears during mid-winter.
The racemes grow to 350 mm. The tubular flowers are shiny, dark
orange red and striking. Individual flowers are 40 mm long. This
aloe is pollinated by sunbirds (Orange Breasted and Double Collared
Sunbirds). The fruits ripen during spring when they release the
small, black seed.
Aloe succotrina is a true Cape fynbos species
always associated with quartzitic sandstone of the Cape folded mountains.
It is distributed from the Cape Peninsula to Mossel Bay in the east.
Its habitat is sheer cliff faces, rocky screes and outcrops where
it is protected from fires. At Hermanus is grows on coastal rocks.
The plants often grow in dense groups and can be
seen where the contour path reaches its highest point at the north
western corner of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens below
the sheer cliffs of Maclear's Beacon on Table Mountain.
Growing Aloe succotrina
Aloe succotrina thrives in fynbos gardens
where it should preferably be grown in a sunny, well drained spot.
The best place is a rockery among monkey stone (Table Mountain sandstone).
Enough space should be provided as it will divide and proliferate
to form dense clusters to 2 m. in diameter. It also grows well in
coastal, strandveld and sea-front gardens. It is striking in winter
when in flower. Plants grow well in containers too. This aloe does
not, however, do well in summer rainfall gardens and rich soil.
best performance feed with compost annually. It takes from three
to four years for a young plant to reach flowering stage.
Plants can be propagated both vegetatively by offshoots,
division or seed. Offshoots can simply be broken off or cut with
a sharp knife or pruning shears. Dust the wound with sulphur to
prevent fungal contamination. This form of propagation can be done
at any time of the year.
Seed should be sown fresh during spring or summer
in shallow seed trays in a sandy soil mixture (2 parts sand, 1 part
garden soil, 1 part sieved compost for peat). Cover the seed with
a 1-2 mm sand layer and keep moist. Germination is within 3 weeks.
Keep moist. Soft rot will contaminate seedlings so use a fungicide
regularly or pretreat the seed with a systemic fungicide. The young
seedlings can be planted out into small containers once large enough
to handle (after a year).
Aloe succotrina is susceptible to aloe snout-weevil.
The larva caterpillars of these robust beetles destroy the crowns
of the aloes. If discovered in time, they can be removed manually
and the crown cleaned out, destroying the caterpillars. The weevils
when found, can be killed by hand.
Ernst van Jaarsveld
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden