Aloe spicata

Water Needs

low; moderate

Aloe spicata
Aloe; Succulent
Lebombo Aloe

2 m

Size

Light Conditions

sun

Frost

tender; light

Flowers

Yellow; orange; July August; winter

sun; grassland; rockery; windy and exposed; dry soils; sandy soils; wildlife bees insects butterflies

Garden Situation

Habitat

grassland; bushveld; woodland forest;

Region

Subtropical East Coast; bushveld; highveld

Rain Season

Summer

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Description

Few nectar plants show the slow, progressive flower opening ritual as clearly as the 2 m single-stemmed Lebombo Aloe, A. spicata. An adaptation to ensure continued pollinator interest throughout the season, full bud formation is complete along the entire 50 cm long raceme, before a single flower opens. Wax-like buds are held horizontally, packed tightly around the core. Initially orange-red, they mature to a somewhat calmer orange-gold with a clear bright green longitudinal stripe – beautiful even at this stage. Days pass, buds plump up, and the lowest petals open to expose long stamens (exserted), that extend beyond the flared tips (campanulate, or bell-shaped), curving slightly upwards like eyelashes; pale creamy-yellow with a bright dot of pollen orange. Flowers are beautiful; golden yellow throat, green stripe on the outside with the faintest dollop on the inside edge.From deep inside nectar rolls ever so slowly towards the opening, a dark brown/ amber colour as viscous as cold honey. Drops can remain suspended for hours, enticing bees and other insects in for a taste. Flower opening continues in a slow, twisting spiral that can take a couple of weeks to reach the crown. Older flowers are going over even as new ones open up. In my garden, bees, flies, butterflies, and other insects visit by the numbers. The common name is suggestive of its form; spicata – arranged in a spike. Plants usually carry just the single inflorescence, though up to 3 racemes are found growing from a single rosette. Each inflorescence is 0.6-1.2 m tall, and the raceme between 30 and 60 cm long. The form of Aloe spicata is quite variable; usually, an erect, single-stemmed aloe growing between 1 and 2 m tall, specimens can be multi-stemmed, almost shrub-like, especially if grown in a community with others. Either way, leaves are relatively narrow, gradually taper to a long point, and form dense rosettes, each one 60 – 80 cm long, recurved with a slight twist. Margins carry red-brown angular teeth, and the smooth surface is bright green in the wet season, turning red-orange, even copper as the seasonal drought progresses. Seeds: Black c. 2.0 mm long, 1.25 wide, 0.7 mm thick, without or with very narrow pale brown wings.

Aloe spicata
Aloe spicata