Aloe ferox

Accession Count: 21
Common Name: cape aloe
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Family Name: Xanthorrhoeaceae
Botanical Name: Aloe ferox
Sub Species:
Characteristics: Aloe ferox is a single-stemmed, upright, evergreen succulent growing up to ten feet tall (1,2). The plant forms a dense rosette, composed of up to 60 thick, juicy, dull green to reddish-brown leaves that measure up to three feet in height (1,3). Leaves bear spines along the margins and on the upper and lower surfaces (1,2,3). As older leaves dry out and turn brown, they curl downward, forming a skirt around the plant’s trunk (1,2,4). The plant’s inflorescence, often likened to a candelabra, extends two to four feet above the rosette with multiple branches and dense clusters of one inch long tubular orange flowers (1,2,3).

Compound: Alo fer
Geographic Origin: South Africa
Ecozone Origin: Afrotropic
Biome Origin:
Natural History: Aloe ferox is endemic to the Cape Region of South Africa and Lesotho, where it is found in a variety of habitats, from rocky slopes to scrubland (1,2,3,4). Flowers appear from May to August in warmer areas, later in cooler regions, and provide abundant pollen for bees and nectar for birds and other animals (2,4). Varieties with red, yellow, or white flowers are commonly found in this species (3,4). Its superficial resemblance to agaves, which are native to the New World and completely unrelated to aloes, is an example of convergent evolution. The genus name Aloe comes from the Greek word for aloe plants and the specific epithet ferox is Latin for “fierce,” probably referring to the spines along the leaves (2,4). 
Cultivation Notes: Aloe ferox is easy to propagate from seed or stem cuttings (1,2). It can be grown indoors as a houseplant or outdoors in warmer climates (1,3). It does best in well-drained medium in full sun (1). During the warm season, it should be watered regularly, but allowed to dry out between waterings (1,3). Fertilizer can be applied once a year (1). The
plant is hardy down to about 25 °F and is somewhat drought tolerant (1). Aloe ferox will hybridize with other aloes growing nearby (2). 
Ethnobotany: Cape aloe has been harvested for hundreds of years for its sap and more recently for its gel (2,4). The golden sap, commonly referred to as bitter aloe or Cape aloe, is obtained by removing leaves and allowing them to drain into a receptacle (5). The sap is then heated to reduce and concentrate it into a solid mass (3,5). It is a common ingredient in purgatives or laxatives (1,3,5). The drained leaves are then crushed, rendering a clear gel, similar to that of aloe vera, which is used in drinks and cosmetics (2,3,5). Other products from the plant include tea leaves made from old leaves (5). Today the plant is frequently cultivated both for its sap and gel and for landscaping purposes (2,3). It is also extensively harvested in the wild and has become extinct in some parts of it native region due to over-exploitation (4).

Height: 11 - 15 feet
Width: 0 - 5 feet
Growth Rate: Fast Growing
Grow Season: Summer
Flower Season: Spring
Color: Orange
Function: Accent
Spread: Non-spreading
Allergen: Non-allergenic
Invasive: Benign
Toxicity: Benign
Hardy: Semi-hardy
Water Use: Low water Use

1. Accessed December 20, 2016. 

2. South African National Biodiversity InstituteAccessed December 20, 2016. 

3. Kew Royal Botanical Garden. Accessed December 20, 2016. 

4. Wildscreen ArkiveAccessed December 20, 2016. 

5. www.aloeferoxafrica.comAccessed December 20, 2016. 

6. Jones, Warren D, and Charles M Sacamano. Landscape Plants for Dry Regions : More Than 600 Species from around the World. Fisher Books, 2000.


Aloe ferox