Also Known As: Table Mountain Aloe, Fynbos Aloe
Category: Small to Medium Clumping Aloes
USDA Hardiness Zones: 9b - 11
OverviewA handsome, densely clustering aloe with blue green thin leaves that can develop a short trunk but is mostly seen as stemless to 3 to 4 feet tall and spreading slowly outward.
DescriptionAloe succotrina is an attractive succulent shrub up to 5 feet (1.5 m) tall. The South African native has 2 foot wide dense rosettes that hold many up-curved 18 inch long by 2 to 3 inch wide leaves. Solitary to sometimes suckering stemless to short-stemmed aloe with blue green thin leaves. It can develop a short trunk but is mostly seen as stemless. They have firm, triangular, white teeth along their margins, which become smaller towards the leaf base. Solitary specimens of the Fynbos Aloe do occur, but this aloe is usually found in small to large, dense clumps. Plants are stemless when young, but branching in older specimens and are covered with the remains of older dried leaves. The purple color of the old leaves is one of the characteristics of Aloe succotrina that helps to distinguish it between similar looking species. Colonies of Aloe succotrina eventually form impenetrable groups. The leaves are fairly fragile and though soft and slightly bendable, break easily. Cut or broken leaves of Aloe succotrina bleed a dark purple and are very staining to clothing.
FloweringDuring winter it produces a tall flower with an attractive terminal raceme of red tubular flowers. It is particularly striking when it flowers. Flowers look somewhat like Aloe arborescens flowers. The flower spike is unbranched and grows up to 1 m high. The dark orange-red, simple, tubular flowers have green tips and are up to 40 mm long and appear in mid-winter. They are erect at first, but hang down once they have opened. The fruits ripen in spring, releasing small black seeds.
Origin / HistoryGrowing high up on the cliff faces and rocky outcrops in the mountains of the Western Cape, this is one of only a few fynbos aloes. Aloe succotrina is a true fynbos species and always occurs on quartzitic, sandstone rocks and cliffs of the Cape Fold Mountains, in the extreme southwestern Cape. They grow on sheer cliff faces, hills and rock faces and are restricted to the Cape Peninsula, Hangklip and Hermanus areas. In a number of localities, plants are found to grow amongst and between sandstone boulders. The plants grow from sea level to an altitude of 900 m. It receives winter rainfall and hot dry summers. Aloe succotrina has had a very confused history. Early botanical workers assumed that the plant had originated from the Indian Ocean Island of Socotra, which is the largest of several islands, extending eastwards from the Horn of Africa. Succotrina was thought to be the adjectival form of Socotra. For many years the origin of this plant remained a mystery. It is, however, a Cape plant and in 1906, a precise locality at the Cape was recorded.
Care / CultivationPlant Aloe succotrina in full sun to light shade in a well-drained soil and irrigate very little as it is particularly well adapted to our California winter rainfall mediterranean climate with very little to no summer irrigation. Space should be provided for maturity, as it eventually grows into a large and dense cluster. This plant does not do well in the summer rainfall region or in rich soils. It is tolerant of near seaside conditions. In pots use a course potting mix. Requires very little maintenance. Divide plants when they become too congested, this should reduce stress on the plants and reduce problems with pests and disease. It is an easy plant that usually does not give many problems in cultivation. During the winter months, the plants should be grown cool to initiate flower development (about 5-10°C )
Frost TendernessPlants have proven cold hardy to 20 F at the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek (see Brian Kemble's List of Cold Hardy Aloes) but if flowering at that time, flowers are damaged.
Use in the GardenAloe succotrina can easily be grown as an ornamental plant in Mediterranean climate gardens, rockeries, and in containers. This aloe is a very nice showy midsize aloe for the garden that is attractive both in and out of bloom and it grows well in containers too. It is cultivated for medicinal purposes in various parts of the world.
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