Aloe marlothii, known as the Mountain Aloe and Bergaalwyn, are drought hardy and do not require much maintenance,.

Certainly one of the best known Aloes, Aloe marlothii’s beautiful shape and stunning flowers make it much sought after as a specimen plant in gardens in Gauteng and elsewhere in southern Africa. Their bright flowers are nectar rich and will attract Sunbirds and other nectar feeding 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       

Form:

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

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

Flowers:

  • 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.

Colour                        

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

Flowering Months:    (Mar) Jun – Aug.

An Aloe marlothii in flower in habitat. The photo shows the upright growth.

A close-up picture of the flowers of Aloe marlothii.

The leaves are grey-green with reddish spines along the margin and scattered on the leaf surfaces.

Fragrance:         Not scented.

Foliage:

  • 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.

Thorns:              Short spines on the leaves.

Fruit:

  • 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.

 

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.

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 recomend you do not remove the ‘skirt’ of dead leaves as they provide safe homes to many animals
  • Good plants for large containers.

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

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

A mature plant of Aloe marlothii growing in a public park.

 Soil Needs:

  • Need a well drained, but fertile soil.

Care:

  • 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 young flowers may be burned if frost occurs.

Water Requirements:   Very drought hardy, but tolerate regular watering.

Light Requirements:     Full sun.

Roots:                                The roots are not aggressive.

Birds:

  • 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.

The attractive Black-headed Oriole feed on nectar from Aloe marlothii and other Aloe flowers.

In flower this Aloe is very showy and attracts nectar eating birds and insects.

A photograph of Aloe marlothii Mountain Aloe, Bergaalwyn or sekgopha, plants in natural habitat in the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve.

Bees:              Aloe flowers are an important nectar source for bees

Butterflies:        Adult butterflies visit the flowers for nectar

Medicinal:

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

Poisonous:                       Not poisonous.

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.
  • 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.

© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2012 & 2019.