2 - 4 m
light; moderate; hardy
orange; red; yellow May to September; autumn; winter
sun; slope bank; clay soils; rockery; gravel garden; wildlife wildlife; windy exposed; shrubbery; wildlife bees butterflies insects birds
bushveld; grassland; urban streets
Subtropical East Coast; savanna bushveld; highveld
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Spectacular golden flowers set the winter garden alight, glowing from sunrise to sunset. A group, or even just one for that matter, becomes the main focus of any landscape, a centre of activity for bees and sunbirds, though not all varieties come in this colour form. There is considerable variety in flower colour, ranging from golden yellow to dark orange, and there are, in fact, two recognised subsp where the angle of the inflorescences differs. A. marlothii subspecies orientalis occurs in KZN, preferring to grow in large clumps in very sandy soils, including beach sand. It has fewer leaf spines, a shorter stem, and racemes borne from the centre at an angle rather than horizontally. The most common form, A. marlothii subsp marlothii occurs mostly inland, with horizontal racemes, usually in shades of dark orange. Extensive stands of this species' flower in the mountain ranges of the Drakensberg, Lebombo, Zoutpansberg and Waterberg giving rise to the common names bergalwyn or mountain aloe. Description: within the garden typical mature height is between 2 and 4 m; in the wild they can grow up to 10 m, a survival technique to ensure leaves are out of reach of the browsers, increasing the chances of survival during drought times when the leaves are more likely to be eaten. A. marlothii tends to be single-stemmed, forming a large rosette-like crown, densely packed with fat, thorny leaves. Leaf colour is a soft grey-green, very broad where they meet the stem, but tapering rapidly to a sharp tip. General leaf size is 75-170 cm x 7.5 – 25 cm, being smaller at the top of the stem, increasing in size downwards. The under-surface of the leaf is covered in conspicuous brown spikes, with a few also dotted on the upper-surface, and the edges of the leaves curl inwards somewhat. As leaves dry they become brown and crinkle up, remaining around the stem as a protection against fires and browsers. Flowers are long and tubular, often between 20 and 30 racemes at a time. As mentioned, while the inland form supports more-or-less horizontal racemes, the KZN forms are usually slanted to almost vertical. Those with vertical flowers can be confused with orange flowering form of the Aloe ferox. Closer inspection will show the absence of spines on the leaf surface of A. ferox. Whatever the colour form, flowers usually lighten in colour as they open. Flower tubes (perianth) are 2-3 cm long, and the stamens protrude from the mouth of each, making the pollen easily accessible to the hard working bee! Flowering time is May to September, and old flower stalks remain on the plant for months after flowering ends. Don’t remove the dry leaves as many insects and lizards use them as nesting sites or winter hide-a-ways. In the garden: this is a summer rainfall species so prefers warm, wet summers and cold, dry winters. It is a fairly slow grower but does need to be given space to reach its eventual mature size. Plant in full sun in well -drained soils to reduce the likelihood of fungal diseases. Keeping it free of surrounding vegetation will also help to prevent fungal disease from reduced air movement. Aloe marlothii enjoys high heat, so position in a rockery or place a few rocks close by to reflect the absorbed heat and mimic this species preferred conditions. Well-established plants can survive for several months without water, and it is important not to over-water plants growing in heavy clay soils. This aloe copes well with high heat and drought conditions and also withstand a fair amount of frost although there may be loss of flowers frost occurs when flowers are just opening. The roots are not aggressive.