Aloe africana (Spiny Aloe) A solitary often unbranched small tree-like aloe usually up to 6 feet but sometimes taller with rosettes densely crowded with gracefully arching 2-foot-long lance-shaped thick grayish blue-green leaves that have prominent sharp red teeth along the margins and in a row running along the middle of the lower surface with older leaves skirting the trunk. Flowering on this species can happen at other times but most often in mid-winter to early spring (January-March) with an un-branched to few-branched 2-to-3-foot inflorescence of erect long-tapering terminal spikes of flowers that are orange in bud and turning yellow just prior to opening from the bottom of the spike upwards. The individual flowers are held in a downward inclination but uniquely turn upwards towards the tips, making identification of this species quite easy.
Plant in full sun in a well-drained soil and irrigate regularly to very little - though from a climate that gets little frost and more summer moisture within its natural range, it adapts well to our mediterranean summer dry climate with only infrequent summer irrigation and temperatures down to 25°F - unharmed in our January 2007 freeze with 3 nights at 25°F. This is a great plant that can be used as a focal point like a small tree aloe and underplanted with other succulents. Keep it back from the path as the teeth are sharp and catch clothing and cut the skin, but in flower it is sensational and also very attractive to bees and hummingbirds.
Aloe africana is native to the summer moist coastal Eastern Cape in South Africa where it grows within thickets of shrubs from sea level to nearly 1,000 feet in elevation. It was described in 1768 by the Scottish botanist Philip Miller, who was also the chief gardener at the Chelsea Physic Garden. It was grown in Europe prior to when many other aloes were described and before Linnaeus establishing the binominal classification system we currently use. The specific epithet that Miller gave it is simply in reference its African origins. The common name Uitenhage Aloe used in South Africa comes from a locality, the Uitenhage District, where this plant is plentiful.
We have offered this plant since 2015 and grown it from cuttings taken from stock on this plant received in 2012 from the Institute of Aloe Studies as Aloe africana IAS08-001.
Information about Aloe africana displayed on this page is based on our research about it conducted in our library and gathered from reliable online sources. We include observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well as how the crops have performed in containers in our own nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others about this plant when we feel it adds information and particularly welcome hearing from anyone who has any additional cultural recommendations that would aid others in growing it.