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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 hardy, but the flowers may be burned in a heavy frost.
Its strong symmetry and structure make it a good landscaping feature plant.
An Aloe marlothii flowering in nature
- 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 in gardens.
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.
- Found in the extreme south eastern Bot, NW, G, M, L, Esw and KZN.
- Endemic to southern Africa.
- 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: http://pza.sanbi.org/aloe-marlothii
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.