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Plant Highlight: Aloe porphyrostachys

June 2003

Aloe porphyrostachys, a species that was described just a few years ago, is a stunning new addition to The Garden. It is related to Aloe rubroviolacea, a clump of which we have had in The Garden for many years. It has performed very well as a garden subject, with abundant flowers every winter. This species occurs mostly in Yemen, but also in adjacent Saudi Arabia. A few years ago, 2 related species from farther north in Saudi Arabia were described. One of these, Aloe porphyrostachys, has the farthest-north occurrence of any aloe yet described. It grows in the mountains on the east side of the Red Sea near Yanbu. The leaves are narrower and more upright than those of A. rubroviolacea, and it does not form a stem that creeps along horizontally as that species does.

The flowers differ as well, with the inflorescence being more branched in A. porphyrostachys while the flower clusters are narrower and more elongate. The flowering period here in California comes in May-June rather than in winter as with A. rubroviolacea, and the flowers are orange-red rather than red. It is not yet known just how hardy Aloe porphyrostachys is when it comes to winter cold, but we have planted one out in the west end of Bed 6 in the hope that it will prove to be as tough as its relative. Its bold rosette of leaves and showy spires of intensely red-orange flowers make it a striking garden subject.