Aloe ferox, commonly known as The Cape Aloe is a distinctly handsome plant, with broad, lance-shaped, fleshy leaves and a large candelabra-like flower-head. This uniquely South African Aloe grows naturally in semi-dessert conditions on the hills of the Eastern Cape. They are often grown indoors where they can thrive in consistently warm temperatures. The leaves very, sometimes with a slightly blue look or a reddish tinge and sometimes they appear spotted.
It is a distinctly handsome plant, with broad, lance-shaped, fleshy leaves which bears thorns not only at leaf edges but generously studding smooth surfaces as well. The leaves take on a pink and red colouring during the winter. This aloe may be tapped for skin-soothing gel from the leaves and contributes a larger quantity than the smaller Aloe vera plant.
In its natural habitat or in the frost-free garden it can attain great size, 2 to 3 metres in height with the leaves arranged in a rosette. The flowers are carried in a large candelabra-like flower-head. There are usually between five and eight branches, each carrying a spike-like head of many flowers. Flower colour varies from yellowy-orange to bright red and occurs between May and August, but in colder parts this may be delayed until September.
Because Aloe plants consist of 95% water, they are frost tender. If they are grown outdoors in warm climates, they should be planted in full sun, or light shade. The soil should be moderately fertile and fast draining. Established plants will survive a drought quite well.
If you live in a more temperate are it's best to leave your Aloe plant in a pot, indoors and place it near a window that gets a lot of sun. You can move the pot outdoors during the summer months. Grown with Agave, cacti or other succulents, they make stunning indoor displays.
Aloe Ferox is often confused with Aloe Vera - Vera products are made of Aloe found in America, whereas the Ferox grows indigenously in South Africa. Aloe ferox has more vitamins, minerals, amino acids and polysaccharides than Aloe Vera. Aloe Ferox contains two principle ingredients: Aloe gel, the white inner fleshy part of the leaf and Aloe bitters, which are not readily available from Aloe Vera.
Aloe gel drains from the leaf of the plant when cut. It is well known for its superior antiseptic, cleansing, moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties. The dark sap comes from between the green peel and the white jelly of the leaf. The “bitters” or "Schwedenbitters" are used for their laxative qualities and to treat arthritis.
Sowing: Sow indoors at any time of year.
Fill small pots or trays with a light and well drained compost. (John Innes Seed Compost, with the addition of ½ gritty sand). Stand the pots in water, moisten thoroughly and drain. Scatter the seed onto the top of the compost and cover lightly with sand. Secure a polythene bag around the pot or cover the container with glass or and place in a warm shaded place. If possible, germinate in a propagator. Care should be taken to prevent the pots drying out.
The majority of seeds germinate at temperatures of 22 to 24°C (70 to 75°F). Some seedlings may appear at around 30 days others will take longer, up to 180 days.
Once germination has taken place, remove the plastic and move into a good light. Be careful to keep the top of the compost damp but watch out for overwatering as the seedlings could rot. Transplant into pots once they are about 4cm high (6 months). Always use a pot with a hole and put a layer of small gravel at the bottom of the pot and also one inch on the top of the soil to prevent stem rot.
Aloes have a shallow, spreading root system, so when it is time to repot choose a wide planter, rather than a deep one. Use a planter with a drainage hole, or provide a 3 to 5cm (1 to 2in) layer of gravel in the bottom of the pot to ensure adequate :drainage. Use a good commercial potting mix with extra perlite, granite grit, or coarse sand added. You may also use a packaged 'cacti mix' soil.
During the winter months, the plant will become dormant, and utilise very little moisture. During this period watering should be minimal. Allow the soil to become completely dry before giving the plant warm water. During the summer months, the soil should be completely soaked, but then be allowed to dry again before re-watering. If you use rainwater, be careful as it could be acidic. Fertilise annually in the spring with a dilute (½ strength), bloom fertiliser (10-40-10).
Aloes are easily grown from seeds, but also can be propagated by removing the offsets produced around the base of mature plants, when they are a couple inches tall. Be aware that aloes will hybridise with any other aloe flowering at the same time.
A position in partial to full sun suits most species of Aloe. The larger Aloes enjoy more direct sunlight than the smaller species as they would normally grow through and above protective vegetation. However, strong sunlight may be needed to develop the attractively bronzed foliage that some Aloes develop in their habitat. Many Aloes produce spectacular racemes of packed tubular yellow, orange or red flowers and are of considerable horticultural merit for the tropical garden or larger glasshouse. Numerous small species can be grown and will produce their showy flowers on a sunny window ledge.
Aloes are distributed across sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, and Arabia. Aloes feature in prehistoric rock art by bushmen, and have been cultivated for thousands of years. Although Aloes are mentioned in the Bible, this probably refers to another resinous plant. However, the Egyptian Ebers Papyrus (ca. 1552 BC) refers to the medicinal value of Aloes, which were also used in embalming. Aloes were known to the Greeks by 400 BC. The Greek herbal of Dioscorides (41-68 AD) recommends Aloe applied externally for wounds, haemorrhoids, ulcers and hair loss, and internally as a laxative.
Aloe vera became so widely grown as a medicinal plant in ancient times that its exact region of origin is a mystery. This species is of considerable economic importance and extracts are included in all manner of pharmaceutical preparations for the skin, treatment of burns and for ingestion.
Aloe ferox is the source of ‘Bitter Aloes’, the yellow juice from just under the skin, which is a powerful purgative. The gel within the middle of the succulent leaves has similar soothing properties to that of A. vera. It effectively regenerates injured nerves and new skin cells. It is commonly used to soothe burns, including sunburn and radiation burns. Aloe is also applied to wounds, insect bites, eczema, ringworm, rashes, leg ulcerations and severe acne and can be used to reduce the pain and swelling of arthritis and rheumatism. It is also used to treat headache, dizziness, constipation and insomnia.
Aloe gel is perishable. Freeze the fresh gel in small blocks and defrost before use.
The genus Aloe is native to Africa; species are found in southern Africa, the mountains of tropical Africa, various islands off the coast of Africa including Sardinia, Madagascar, and the Arabian Peninsula. There are more than 450 species of aloe, varying in size from diminutive pot plants to large clumps. They inhabit dry, often rocky and exposed areas.
Aloe ferox is a tall, single stemmed Aloe that can grow up to 10ft tall with a wide distribution in the South African Cape, Southern KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho and the Free State, in grassland and bush in both summer and winter rainfall areas.
The APG II system of plant classification published in 2003 by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group places the genus Aloe in the family Asphodelaceae, a placement which is reflected by the Plants of Southern Africa Checklist, however the International Plant Names Index still lists aloes as being in the lily family (Liliaceae), and this is apparently still more widely accepted. Some authorities have also placed it in a family of its own, the Aloaceae.
Pronounced: AL-oh FER-oks the genus was named by Linnaeus (1753) and derives from the Greek alsos meaning ‘bitter’.
The species name Ferox is a Latin word meaning savage, wild, bold, courageous or warlike, from which derives the word ferocious.
It is commonly known as The Cape Aloe from the plants origin of the area around the South African Cape.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 20 Seeds Family Aloaceae Genus Aloe Species ferox Synonym Aloe perfoliata Common Name Ferocious Aloe, Cape Aloe Other Common Names African Aloe, Umhlaba Other Language Names Afrikaans: Bitteraalwyn; Bergaalwyn Hardiness Tender Perennial Hardy Succulent Time to Sow Sow indoors at any time of year. Germination 30 to 180 days at 22 to 24°C (70 to 75°F) Notes Succulent