Scientific Name: Aloe plicatilis
Common Name: Fan Aloe
Plant Type: Succulent
Environment: Prefers steep rocky slopes in well drained acidic, sandy soil; thrives with winter rainfall and prefers good mulching or compost.
Bloom: Late winter to early spring. From January to March at SFBG, August to October in South Africa
Uses: Works well as an accent plant; placed in that sandy spot in your yard that doesn't seem to be able to 'get anything to grow'. Outside of San Francisco, protect from the hot afternoon sun; also makes an attractive potted plant.
Other: A. plicatilis is the only tree aloe confined to the southwestern Cape in South Africa. All Aloe are currently in the family Asphodelaceae, formerly in the Aloeaceae and, before that, the Liliaceae. The leaves have an alternate, distichous leaf arrangement, where the leaves are two-ranked and 180 degrees apart from each other; the leaves are covered with a thick wax and have very thick outer epidermal walls which contributes to the grayish color of the leaf.
The Fan Aloe, visible in the sunny border of the entrance garden, is a remarkable specimen of the Fynbos, an Afrikaans word for “fine bush,” that covers the hills and mountains of Cape Province in South Africa. This peninsula at the tip of Africa, isolated by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans on two sides, and by a desert to its north, harbors a floral kingdom of around 2,800 different species of plants in an area the size of London.
Aloes are succulent, a term describing plants that are able to store water in their leaves, roots or stems, permitting them to survive long periods of drought. Fan Aloe, with its unusual fan-like (plicatilis) arrangement of dull green, fleshy leaves in two rows opposing each other, is also called “Tree Aloe”. It can reach heights of 10 feet or more with its trunk forking into thick branches. Unlike real trees there is no wood present in tree aloes, only fibrous cells. Many fan aloes remain shrub-like with sinuous branching patterns.
Spikes of scarlet tubular flowers rise out of each leaf cluster on tall solitary stems and bloom from August to October, which is late winter into spring in the southern hemisphere. The blossoms are rich with nectar and pollinated by sunbirds.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Photos by Joanne Taylor, Text by Kathy McNeil, Profile by David Kruse-Pickler