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Author: Gideon Smith
Popular 'architectural plants', aloes are widely used in gardens across the country, and there is growing interest in their medicinal and commercial uses. In an introductory chapter, the author touches on aloe identification, their conservation status, growing and gardening with aloes and cosmetic and medicinal uses.
Fifty species are described, each containing detailed information on plant characteristics, flower colour, distribution and notes on planting. Each species account is accompanied by a distribution map and a colour photograph for easy identification.
This beginners' guide to aloes is part of a series of first field guides for young people or for those with a budding interest in any of the 22 topics covered across the series.
Professor Gideon F. Smith is the Chief Director of Research and Scientific Services at the National Botanical Institute and holds the John Acocks professorial chair at the University of Pretoria.
In addition to over 450 scientific papers, chapters in books and semi-scientific papers, he has authored or co-authored more than 20 books, among them: Guide to the Aloes of South Africa, List of Southern African Succulent Plants, Mesembs of the World, Succulents of South Africa, First Field Guide to the Aloes of South Africa, First Field Guide to the Grasses of South Africa and Regions of Floristic Endemism in Southern Africa. Professor Smith is an avid gardener and has created succulent plant gardens in the Eastern Cape, Free Sate, North-West Province and in Gauteng.
Characteristics: Plants can be variable in all characters. Leaf colour varies tremendously, from bluish grey to a bright, light green. These multi-headed shrubs range from dainty to robust. The small or large rosettes are borne at the ends of medium-sized branches that are usually clothed in the remains of dead leaves. The narrow leaves are of medium length and are adorned with short, usually whitish or greenish teeth. The conical inflorescences, which have one or two branches, are borne near the tips of the rosettes. Individual flowers have a very neat appearance.
Flower colour: Orange, red, pinkish or yellow flowers. Flowering time: Predominantly early to late winter, but some forms will flower in summer.
Distribution: The species has a wide distribution range, stretching from Cape Point in a continuous range eastwards, through to KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. It also occurs further afield in Zimbabwe and Malawi.
Notes: This must rate as one of the most useful aloes for gardening and landscaping. It grows very well in almost any situation, and the flowering period can be extended considerably if forms from various parts of its distribution range are grown. As a result of its variability, one can create a garden consisting entirely of the numerous forms of Aloe arborescens.
Aloe aculeata 10