This well known grass aloe is commonly found along rocky ridges
and rocky slopes on the Witwatersrand and Magaliesberg as well as
in mountainous areas of the Northern Province and Mpumalanga. In
years gone by it was even more prolific, but numbers have been greatly
reduced due to development on the ridges and from harvesting by
succulent collectors. A number of different forms are found throughout
its distribution range.
The plants form dense clumps up to about 30cm high. The narrow
fleshy leaves usually form a fan-shape and are borne on very short
stems which branch at ground level. The leaves may occasionally
form a rosette in older specimens. They are dull green or bluish-green
with the upper surface distinctly channelled and the lower surface
bearing numerous tuberculate white spots towards the base. The margins
of the leaves are armed with soft white teeth.
Aloe verecunda is deciduous and loses all its leaves in winter
which only reappear after the first rains in Spring. The plant has
thick fleshy roots in which it stores water during the dry winter
Attractive dense heads of up to 20 peach-red to scarlet flowers
are borne in summer (November to February). A greenish-yellow form
is also occasionally found. The individual flowers are tubular and
up to 30mm in length, becoming pendulous when open. The flowers
produce nectar which attracts nectar-feeding sunbirds which in turn
act as pollinators for the plant.
The name Aloe is derived from Alloeh, the Arabic
name for this genus and verecunda means modest/chaste (Latin).
This interesting aloe belongs to a group of deciduous aloes known
as the "Grass Aloes" which are adapted to grassland habitat
and are able to survive both fire and frost during the cold dry
months. They are often burned during winter and then resprout with
the onset of spring.
Growing Aloe verecunda
These plants grow well in cultivation if grown in conditions similar
to their natural habitat. Ideally plant them in full sun, in well
drained soil between rocks. They can withstand fairly severe frost
in winter when they are dormant. They will tolerate a fair amount
of water during summer, but be sure not to give them too much water
during the winter months. Aloe verecunda can be cultivated as a
container plant provided it is given adequate drainage. Once established
in the garden, these plants should not be transplanted unnecessarily
as this causes damage to the fleshy root system which takes a long
time to re-establish once injured.
This grass aloe can be relatively easily propagated from seed which
should be sown in spring in a well drained seedling medium. Water
well until the seedlings are established.
- Bornman, H. & Hardy, D. 1971. Aloes of the South African
Veld. Voortrekkerpers : Johannesburg.
- Fabian, A. & Germizhuizen, G. 1997. Wild Flowers of Northern
South Africa. Fernwood Press : Cape Town
- Jeppe, B. 1969. South African Aloes. Purnell : Cape Town
- Lucas, A. & Pike, B. 1971. Wild Flowers of the Witwatersrand.
Purnell : Cape Town
- Reynolds, G.W. 1982. (4th edition). The Aloes of South Africa.
A.A.Balkema : Cape Town.
- Van Wyk, B. & Smith, G. 1996. Guide to the Aloes of South
Africa. Briza Publications : Pretoria
Witwatersrand National Botanical Garden