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Plant Highlight: Aloe greenii

October 2009

Aloe is a large genus, with 500 or so species from Africa, Arabia, and islands in the Indian Ocean (notably Madagascar).  Some species do not have any evident close affinities, but others belong to groupings of related species.  The largest such grouping contains Aloe maculata and its relatives, often referred to as the “maculate aloes”.  Plants in this group are usually stemless or short-stemmed, with spotted leaves and tubular flowers with markedly swollen bases.  They often sucker to form clumps, and most have branched inflorescences.  South Africa has the greatest number of species in the maculate group, and one of these is Aloe greenii.

Like many of its relatives, Aloe greenii has spots which tend to occur in irregular undulating transverse bands.  Its relatively narrow leaves arch out gracefully.  The flowers are dusty-pink and emerge in the fall.  The branched flower stalks rise to a height of 3 to 4 feet (a meter or more).

A. greenii comes from the province of KwaZulu-Natal on the eastern side of South Africa, where there is ample rain in summer and the winters are dry. However, it is not difficult to grow in winter-rainfall areas as long as temperatures do not drop below the mid-twenties Fahrenheit (-4° C).  In nature, plants normally grow in thickets or under bushes and trees, and in cultivation they do well in light shade, though they will take full sun in cooler coastal localities.