One of the best-known Aloes in Gauteng, Aloe marlothii’s beautiful shape, and stunning flowers make it much sought after as a specimen plant in local gardens and elsewhere in southern Africa.

Their bright flowers are nectar-rich and will attract sunbirds and other birds.

Very drought hardy, and a relatively low maintenance plant, it is certainly a good choice for warm, dry gardens.

Family:                   ASPHODELACEAE                          (Aloe Family)

Name Derivation:

  •  Aloe – Uncertain origin may be of Greek, Arabic, Hebrew or Sanskrit origin.
  • marlothii – After Herman Marloth (1855 – 1931), professor of botany at the University of Stellenbosch and a pharmacist.

Common Names:     Mountain aloe, (Eng), bergaalwyn (Afr), sekgopha (Nso), inhlaba (Swa), mhanga (Tso) mokgopha (Tsw), tshikhopha  (Ven), and umhlaba (Zul).

SAF Number:                   29.5

Features of Aloe matlothii


A tall, single stemmed Aloe with a rosette of fleshy leaves.

Size:           1 – 4 m ( – 6m) by 1.5 – 3 m.

Stem and Bark:

  • Light to dark brown, often blackened by fire in the wild.
  • The bark is often hidden by a ‘skirt’ of the old, dead leaves.

Thorns:              Short spines on the leaves.

An Aloe marlothii in flower in habitat. Note the upright growth.

The leaves have reddish spines along the margin and scattered on the leaf surfaces.


  • Evergreen.
  • Large, gray-green, fleshy leaves (75 – 150 cm) that are curved upwards and spreading.
  • Margins are lined with short, reddish spines.
  • The spines are also scattered on the leaf surfaces, more on the lower than upper surface.
  • The leaves are arranged in a spiral rosette at the end of the stem.
  • The old leaves dry out and droop downwards against the stem and remain on the plant for a long time.


  • A single inflorescence (flower stalk) that branches into many almost horizontal racemes (flower spikes) 30 – 50 cm long.
  • Many bright yellow-orange tubular flowers are borne on the upper surface of the racemes.
  • Old flower inflorescences remain on the plant for up to a year.


  • Bright orange-yellow.
  • Rarer white, yellow, red and bicoloured forms are also found.

Flowering Months:    (Mar) Jun – Aug.

Fragrance:                     Not scented


  • A 2 by 1 cm capsule that has 3 compartments
  • Each compartment contains many slightly winged seeds.
  • Green ripening to light brown.
  • The capsules split open to release the wind dispersed seed when ripe.

A close-up photo of Aloe marlothii flowers.

Some old Aloe marlothii fruits that have split open and dispersed thier seeds.

Aloe marlothii is a good structural feature plant in a garden and spectacular when in flower.

Growing Aloe marlothii

In the Garden:

  • Its strong symmetry and structure make it a good feature plant in landscaping.
  • Plants in flower are stunning and add colour to Highveld gardens when little else is flowering.
  • Because it is drought and quite cold resistant, it is a good choice for gardens on the Highveld.
  • Very good wildlife friendly plants, attracting a variety of animals.
  • We recommend you do not remove the ‘skirt’ of dead leaves as they provide safe homes to many animals
  • Good plants for large containers.

 Soil Needs:

  • Need a well-drained, but fertile soil.


  • Mostly a low maintenance garden plant.
  • Feed annually by mulching with compost.
  • Prone to attack by white scale (especially if stressed), treat with sunflower oil or Olium.
  • Also prone to attack by Snout beetles, we spray with Pyrol.
  • Large plants do not transplant very well, many die within 2 or 3 years of been moved.

Cold Hardiness:

  • Cold hardy, but the flowers may be burned in a heavy frost.


Its strong symmetry and structure make it a good landscaping feature plant.

Aloe marlothi flowering in nature.

An Aloe marlothii flowering in nature

Water Requirements:

  • Very drought hardy, but tolerate regular watering.
  • A Water-wise plant.

Light Requirements:       Full sun.

Space Requirements:      Plant 1 – 2 metres apart.

Roots              The roots are not aggressive.


Ecology of Aloe marlothii


  • The flowers and nectar will attract many different bird species, including sunbirds and orioles.
  • Used by insectivorous birds for foraging and gleaning.
  • The spiny leaves, green and dried, provide excellent nesting sites for many birds from doves to sparrows.

Bees:              Aloe flowers are an important nectar source for bees

Butterflies and other insects:        Adult butterflies visit the flowers for nectar


  • Used to treat stomach ailments, roundworm and horse sickness.

Poisonous:                       Not poisonous. 

Black-headed Orioles are attracted to Aloe marlothii flowers

Black-headed Orioles are attracted to Aloe marlothii flowers in gardens.

Aloe marlothii growing on the slopes of a mountain.

Aloe marlothii growing on the slopes of a mountain in the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve.

Notes of interest:

  • The dried leaves that remain on plants provide shelter to insects, lizards and geckoes.
  • The nectar rich flowers attract many insects (especially bees),
  • These Aloes have been planted around kraals to protect stock from predators.
  • Leaves are eaten by large browsers like kudu.
  • Aloe marlothii hybridises readily with other Aloes that flower at the same time as they do.
  • Please do not purchase Aloe plants sold “open root” on the side of the road, these plants have been raped from the veld.

Natural Distribution:

  • Found in the extreme south eastern Bot, NW, G, M, L, Esw and KZN.
  • Endemic to southern Africa.

Natural Habitat:

  • Grasslands and savanna-bushveld.
  • Found on rocky mountain slopes, in woodlands and grassland.


Boon, Richard  “Pooley’s Trees of Eastern South Africa, a Complete Guide”  2nd ed. 2010  Flora & Fauna Publications  Durban.

Emms, Paul,  “Aloe marlothii”  2007  PlantZA     Link:

Joffe, Pitta & Oberholzer, Tinus  “Creative Gardening with Indigenous Plants, A South African Guide” 2nd ed. 2012  Briza Publications  Pretoria

Coates Palgrave, K C, edited Coates Palgrave, M C  “Trees of Southern Africa”  2002  Struik Publishers  Cape Town

Palmer, E & Pitman, N  “Trees of Southern Africa Volume 3”  1973  A A Balkema  Cape Town

Schmidt, E, Lotter M  Cleland W  “Trees and Shrubs of Mpumalanga and Kruger National Park  2002  Jacana  Johannesburg

Van Wyk, A, van den Berg, E, Coates Palgrave, M & Jordaan, M  Dictionary of names for southern African trees”  2011..Briza Publications  Pretoria

© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs)  2019 & 2021.