Aloe variegate: Tiger Aloe

Just as agaves determine the look of the landscape in certain arid sections of Central America, so aloes are the characteristic plants of South Africa’s arid country. Externally the two plants are very similar and the one is often mistaken for the other by the layman. How can they be distinguished?

Aloe belongs to the Liliaceae family, agave is a member of the Agavaceae family. Agave has leaf rosettes that are generally stemless, those of aloe are usually carried on a short stem. The leaves of agave are stiff and contain numerous fibres, those of aloe tend to break readily. Aloe may produce flowers every year; these are yellow, orange or red, rarely white. The inflorescence is never more than 1 m (3 ft) high, the flowers are arranged in a spiral, and when are spent, hang mouth downard. Agave flowers only once during its life-cycle, the inflorescence is much taller, and the flowers, arranged in clusters at the tips of the branches, face upward.

The similarity between these two different genera from two different families is not accidental — they are both found in the same type of environment and both have developed the same adaptations. Cultivation is thus the same for both.

The species is one of the best known and is native to Cape Province. The leaves, unlike those of most members of the genus, form sessile rosettes and are spirally arranged on a short stem. The whole plant attains a height of about 30 cm (1 ft). If it can be put in a cool, well-lit spot in winter, it will regularly produce flowers in February and March. It tolerates warm conditions in winter but in this case it rarely flowers.

Other species are also frequently encountered in cultivation, for example Aloe aristata, A. eru, A. striata and A. arborescens. All have similar re-quirements and cultivation is thus the same for all.

Succulents, of course, may also be planted together to create attractive and striking arrangements. Such arrangements may include members of different genera found growing together in the wild, for example Aloe aristata with Stapelia ambiqua and Mesembryanthemum nobile.. You can choose any number of combinations according to your taste and fancy.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, House Plants | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Aloe variegate: Tiger Aloe

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