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Plant Highlight: Aloe microstigma

February 2008

This plant is from the western part of South Africa, though it does not grow in the heart of the winter-rainfall region on the west coast.  Instead, it is found farther inland where rainfall may occur in winter or in summer.  It is mostly a solitary species, though some anomalous populations are known where plants form groups.  While initially stemless, A. microstigma may in time develop a stem of up to 1½ feet or so (½ m).

The leaves on Aloe microstigma are usually about 2 to 2½ inches wide at the base (5-6 cm), arching upward and tapering to a point.  They are armed along the edge with small but sharp brown teeth.  They typically have many small white spots scattered on both surfaces, though this is not always the case, and some plants have distinct longitudinal lines.  In terms of leaf color, this is perhaps the most variable of all the species of Aloe.  While plants grown in shadier positions may be green, it is usually found in sunny positions where it may be tinged red, orange, pink, or purple.  Some populations have leaves of a glaucous-blue color.

The inflorescences on this species are unbranched and rise to a height of 2 to 3 feet (60-90 cm), with dense steeple-like racemes of flowers.  Typically, the buds are red and the open flowers are yellow, but sometimes the racemes are all red or all yellow.