Aloes are often
grown as house plants or in conservatories in
The name aloe is probably derived from
the Greek alsos or the Arabic alloeh
or the Hebrew allal, and refers to the bitter
juice from these plants.
A few species are shown here. If we have
attributed the wrong species name to any of the
photos, please let us know using "contact us" at the
bottom of this page.
Aloe arborescens, commonly known as the
krantz aloe (English), kransaalwyn (Afrikaans),
ikalene (Xhosa), inkalane or umhlabana (Zulu), was
one of the first South African aloes collected and
planted in the Company Garden in Cape Town by the
early European settlers.
Aloe arborescens develops into a
multi-headed shrub 2-3m high with striking grey
green leaves arranged in rosettes. The large
colourful flower spikes are borne in profusion
during the winter from May to July.
It is adapted to many habitats, but is usually
found in mountainous areas where it favours exposed
ridges and rocky outcrops. It occurs from the
Western Cape along the eastern coast, through
KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
Aloe arborescens has many medicinal
properties and is also used by traditional healers
in muthi. The amaZulu use the dried crushed leaves
as a protection against storms. Extracts of the
leaves are also used in childbirth and in treating
sick calves. In the Transkei it is used for stomach
ache and given to chickens to prevent sickness. In
the Orient, this aloe is grown in domestic gardens
as a convenient first-aid treatment for burn wounds
and abrasions. In fact it was only after. After the
dropping of the atom bomb of Hiroshima it was used
to treat irradiation burns. Extracts from the leaves
have been widely investigated since and show
significant wound healing properties.
Aloe ferox, commonly known as the bitter
aloe or red aloe (English); bitteraalwyn or
bergaalwyn (Afrikaans); iNhlaba (Zulu) and iKhala
(Xhosa), best known for its medicinal qualities as a
laxative, a treatment for arthritis, for its wound
healing properties and an ingredient in many
It grows mainly in the Western Cape, Eastern
Cape and KwaZulu-Natal and can be found growing both
in the open and in bushy areas, on rocky hill slopes
and in grassy fynbos.
ferox is a tall single stemmed aloe that can
reach 2-3m high with the leaves arranged in a
rosette at its apex. The old leaves remain after
they have dried, forming a "petticoat" on the stem.
The flowers occur in winter between May and August
and are carried in a large candelabra-like
flower-head. Their colour varies from yellowy-orange
to bright red.
Aloe dichotoma, commonly known as
the quiver tree (English) or kokerboom
(Afrikaans) is one of the best known aloes
in South Africa.
distinctive tree aloe generally has smooth
branches. The bark on the trunk forms golden
brown scales, the edges of which are very
sharp. The blue-green leaves are borne on
terminal rosettes. Bright yellow flowers are
borne in winter during June and July. Sugar
birds are drawn to these to feed on the
Aloe dichotoma is a very tough
tree and may reach an age of over 80 years
and a height of 7m. It is a conspicuous
component of the arid parts of the
Northern Cape commonly known as
Namaqualand and Bushmanland. The three trees
depicted here were photographed in the
Augrabies Falls National Park
is not uncommon for the branches of these
trees to support huge communal nest of
sociable weaver that live and breed by the
There is an interesting description of
Aloe dichotoma made by Simon van der Stel
(Governor of the Cape of Good Hope) in 1685
on his northward journey to the Copper
Mountains near present-day
Springbok. His record reads,
trunk is sometimes 12 feet high, and it has
a beautiful, clear and copious sap from
which excellent gumma aloes could probably
be made in large quantities. Its bark is
rather hard but the pith is soft, light and
spongy. The branches of the trees are used
by the natives (Bushmen) as quivers for
their arrows. They hollow them out and cover
the one end with a piece of leather and thus
skilfully make from this tree, which they
call Choje, a strong and serviceable quiver.
barberae, commonly known as the tree
aloe (English); boomaalwyn or mikaalwyn
(Afrikaans); imPondonndo, inDlabendlazi or
umGxwala (Zulu), is a striking sculptural
aloe, often bearing a rounded, neat crown.
barberae is Africa's largest aloe
reaching up to 15m high. The racemes are
cylindrical and its tubular flowers rose
pink and appear during winter (June and
It is widely distributed from the Eastern
Mpumalanga and Limpopo.