Aloe succotrina Lam.

Common name: Fynbos aloe
Family: Aloaceae or Asphodelaceae

Aloe succotrina

Aloe 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.

Flower headIt 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.

The 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.

Habitat of A.succotrina

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.

Aloe succotrinaFor 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
June 2001

To find out if SANBI has seed of this or other SA species, please email our seedroom.

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