Also Known As: Mountain Aloe, Snake Aloe
Category: Single Head Stemless Aloes
USDA Hardiness Zones: 9b-11
OverviewAloe broomii (Snake Aloe) is a common and attractive aloe. It is a robust, short-stemmed, evergreen succulent forming a large, dense rosette of light green leaves, 1 ft. long (30 cm) that has the form and shape of an agave.
DescriptionAloe broomii comes in two distinct varieties, the common form and var. tarkaensis. Snake Aloe is usually solitary, but occasionally the heads divide to form groups of up to 3 rosettes. The plant may form a huge perfect rosette up to 1 m across of yellowish-green, faintly lineate leaves. The leaves are light green and are arranged in a dense rosette. The leaves are adorned with reddish brown, deltoid, teeth along the edges, which curl interestingly along the outer edges of each leaf. These thorns are very dark, compared to other species whose thorns are either green or white. It grows up to 1.5 metres high, including the inflorescence. When Aloe broomii grows with other species of Aloe which flower at the same time, natural hybrids are usually found. This is one of the most dangerous aloes to stick your hand into the middle of (like when removing debris from between the leaves) because of hooked sharp spines. Rarely suckers.
FloweringThe most notable feature of this plant is its odd inflorescence, where the flowers are hidden by the extended bracts, giving it a sinuous, snake-like appearance, hence its name. The flowers are pale greenish yellow and 20 - 25 mm long. It flowers during late winter to spring, and the seed ripens during summer. This Aloe develops a stunning, densely flowered, candle-like inflorescence, 4-5 ft. tall (120-150 cm), in which the buds and pale lemon flowers are covered by white long bracts.
Origin / HistoryIt is found on rocky slopes in hilly parts of the central interior of southern Africa at altitudes of 1000-2000 m, from the top of the southern escarpment near Beaufort West in the Northern Cape, to near Tarkastad in the Eastern Cape to the Free State in the north, and in Lesotho. Aloe broomii was collected by Dr R. Broom in 1905 at Pampoenpoort, which is between Carnarvon and Victoria West, so this wonderful species was named after the man who was the first to collect it. It earned the common name snake aloe because of its long, slender, snake-like inflorescence. Aloe broomii is depicted in 250-year old rock paintings in South Africa.
Care / CultivationGrow Aloe broomii in a sunny position in well-drained (sandy), fertile, soil. Add plenty of compost and bone meal to the planting hole and give the newly planted aloe a regular deep watering for the first few weeks - this will encourage strong root growth. Add a thick mulch of compost to both feed the plant and keep the roots cool. Mulch will also reduce evaporation and decrease weed growth. As the plant gets established, reduce the amount of water and don't water at all during the rainy season.
Use in the GardenAloe broomii is an ideal water-wise plant, especially in arid and semi-arid regions, and it is frost resistant. It makes an excellent focal point and structural plant in landscaped gardens, and is a good choice for a rock garden.
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