Aloe greatheadii var. davyana

The genus name, ALOE is derived probably from the Greek word alsos which just refers to the bitter juice from the leaves of the plants. The earlier derivation of the word appears to have come from the Arabic word alloeh meaning bitter. However, the derivation of the word ‘aloe’ remains unclear. The bitter sap in the common spotted aloe leaves is traditionally applied to the surface of the skin for skin irritations, bruising and for the treatment of wounds, sores and burns.

Drab and uninteresting for most of the year this little common spotted veld aloe is most certainly quite spectacular in midwinter. Throughout Wilds East and Wilds West you can see them growing in vast numbers in the grassland, and on rocky and open patches. These aloes have the ability of forming extensive stands and can be used successfully as a soil binder particularly in disturbed areas. They particularly enjoy the silica and acid based soils in the vicinity of the granite boulders on the Estate.

While the common spotted aloe is not threatened as yet, unfortunately thousands are being destroyed annually due to development. The plants are robust, grow singly or in medium sized groups of up to 15 plants. It is worth noting when in a group the leaves are often rather disfigured but when growing singly in grassland the leaf formation is often perfect and well formed. Whether this is a case of actually protecting their own stand and presenting a stronger more handsome looking plant I can’t say. There is most definitely a difference in the overall quality of these single plants! When next out walking on the Greater Woodmead Estate take a look and if anyone has the answer I would be happy to hear from you.

This common spotted veld aloe, is referred to as a stemless spotted leaf aloe. The firm, fleshy leaves range from being triangular to lance-shaped, are shiny green, pink or purplish and often faintly striped above with oblong white spots arranged in more or less distinct bands while the lower leaf surfaces are usually a dull light green and unspotted. The leaf margins are armed with sharp, dark brown teeth or prickles. The leaves tend to Flowers range from a pale pink to a bright red. Leaf margin armed with sharp, dark brown teeth and leaves tend to die back slightly in winter. What is left after the flowering is over. die back slightly in winter when the top portion of the leaf dies back and becomes twisted, leaving the remaining part of the plant almost square in shape.

The inflorescence (the flowering portion of a plant) is often branched and the flowers appear powdery pink to a deeper pink but can in fact be quite variable. These attractive spikes of tubular dusty pink flowers are carried on long stalks up to 1.5 meters high above the basal rosette and can have as many as 6 branches. In the common spotted aloe two inflorescences are commonly formed at the same time.

The tubular flowers act as excellent reservoirs for the abundant amounts of light clear nectar produced and with the orange pollen attract bees and of course a variety of nectar loving birds which all contribute to the successful pollination of the common spotted veld aloe.

Fayne Connelly

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