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Plant Highlight: Aloinopsis rubrolineata

February 2023

By Brian Kemble


Aloinopsis is a genus of nine species in the Aizoaceae, or Ice Plant Family, native to South Africa. They are dwarf clustering plants with tuberous roots and bumpy-textured leaves. Some of the species are found in Namaqualand, in South Africa’s northwest, and others are found farther southeast, in the southern part of the Great Karoo. One of the latter is Aloinopsis rubrolineata, the eastern-most species, from the vicinity of Graaff-Reinet. This is a relatively dry environment, with about 13 inches of annual precipitation (330 mm). Rainfall may be at any time of year, but more falls in summer than in winter.


About the Plant

Aloinopsis rubrolineata is a long-lived plant with multiple thick carrot-like roots and compact rosettes of trowel-shaped leaves. Plants typically have a few heads bunched together, but older specimens may have as many as 10 or more heads. Each head has a modest number of leaves, often four or six, with the leaves emerging in pairs at the center of the plant. The fleshy leaves are up to 1.6 inches long (4 cm) and .7 inch wide (1.8 cm), with a pebbly texture. The base color of the leaves is dark green or dark grayish-green, sometimes with a brown or purple tinge, but the tubercles peppering the surface are paler, imparting a speckled look. The lower leaf surface is always convex, while the upper surface may be flat or slightly concave.


About the Inflorescence

The flowering season for Aloinopsis rubrolineata in the landscape is generally in winter to early spring. At the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, California, plants typically begin flowering in January and end in early April. In South Africa, where the species comes from, winter would be at the opposite time of year, so plants would be flowering in July to September instead of January to March. The flowers have stout but very short stalks, so that they are nested among the leaves. Their diameter is up to 1.2 inches (3 cm), with many narrow petals in a ring around the outside, and a cone of stamens in the middle that initially hide the pistils from view. As the flowers mature, the stamens pull apart a little, so that one can peer down between them to see the pistils within. The petals are yellow, usually on the pale side, with a thin red stripe running down the middle. This red stripe is the reason for the name rubrolineata, meaning “red-lined”. The flowers do not open until the afternoon, and they close up again at dusk.


About the Fruit

The seed capsules of Aloinopsis rubrolineata are long-lasting and funnel-shaped at the base, with a domed top. Within are ten to eleven locules (or compartments) containing the rounded brown seeds, which are about 1/20 inch long (1.3 mm).


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