Aloe candelabrum A.Berger.
Aloe galpinii Baker
Aloe horrid Haw.
Aloe muricata Haw.
Aloe pallancae Guillaumin
Aloe perfoliata ferox (Mill.) Aiton
Aloe pseudoferox Salm-Dyck
Aloe subferox Spreng.
Aloe supralaevis Haw.
Busipho ferox (Mill.) Salisb.
Pachidendron ferox (Mill.) Haw.
Pachidendron pseudoferox (Salm-Dyck) Haw.
Pachidendron supralaeve (Haw.) Haw.
Common Name: Cape Aloe
Cultivated plant in the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden, S. Africa
Photograph by: Marco Schmidt
Cape aloe is a succulent, evergreen tree that grows from 2 - 4 metres tall, occasionally to 5 metres. The stem is unbranched and is topped by a rosette of 50 - 60 erect to spreading leaves that can each be up to 100cm long and 15cm wide at their base. The leaves are densely armed with sharp spines[
A very popular traditional medicine, the plant is also a major source of 'bitter aloes', which is commonly used by herbalists worldwide. The plant is widely grown as an ornamental, often as a pot plant in cooler climates. It is also often harvested from the wild and cultivated for its medicinal and cosmetic uses, being used in both traditional and conventional medicine[
]. Although considerable quantities of Cape aloe are marketed and used locally, most of the exudate produced in South Africa is exported[
The sap of Aloe species contains anthraquinones. These compounds have several beneficial medicinal actions, particularly as a laxative, and many species of Aloe are thus employed in traditional medicine. Whilst safe in small doses and for short periods of time, anthraquinones do have potential problems if used in excess. These include congestion and irritation of the pelvic organs[
]. Long term use of anthraquinone laxatives may also play a role in development of colorectal cancer as they have genotoxic potential, and tumorigenic potential[
South Africa - Cape Province.
Abundant on arid rocky hillsides up to 1,000 metres altitude[
]. Also found in grassy fynbos and on the edges of the karoo. It grows both in the open and in bushy areas[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Ornamental, Wild
Aloe ferox is indigenous to the arid subtropical areas of South Africa, but it is now widely grown throughout the tropics and subtropics[
]. It grows in a wide range of climatic conditions. It is especially abundant where mean temperatures range from 27 - 31Â°c and annual rainfall ranges from 50 - 300mm[
]. Plants can withstand light frost, with occasional short-lived temperatures as low as -4Â°c, although the flowers may be damaged at -2Â°c[
Requires a sunny position and a very well-drained soil. Thrives on rich soils[
], but is also tolerant of poor ones[
Aloe species follow the Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM). CAM plants are able to fix CO2 at night and to photosynthesize with closed stomata during the day, thus minimizing water loss. This, plus their succulent leaves and stems and the presence of a thick cuticle, makes them well adapted to dry conditions. Severe drought, though, stops exudate production[
Although the root system is shallow, the plant can grow under very dry conditions[
A slow-growing plant[
Cape aloe has a stem surrounded with a persistent layer of dead leaves that insulate it in the case of bush fires[
]. Harvesting of Aloe ferox leaves for medicinal purposes could thus result in significant mortality due to fires[
The gel from the leaves has been used in South Africa to make a jam that tastes like watermelon jam[
]. It is also gaining importance as a refreshing and nutritive ingredient in food and drinks[
Dry leaves are harvested and crushed, after which a decoction is used to make a herbal tea[
The flowers are sucked for their sweet nectar[
In southern Africa the thickened, red leaf exudate, called â€˜Cape aloeâ€™, is used as a purgative in human and veterinary medicine and fresh exudate is applied in cases of ophthalmia and syphilis[
]. It is also used in the treatment of arthritis[
The gel from the core of the leaves has a similar use as the gel from the leaves of Aloe vera, and is used to treat skin afflictions (burns, wounds, abrasions, irritations), and is applied as a poultice on contusions or as a general refrigerant[
]. It is furthermore used as a hair wash to promote hair growth and against dandruff[
The distinctive constituents in Aloe leaves are phenolic compounds, including chromone, anthraquinone or anthrone derivatives. Some of the compounds are found in many species, whereas others occur in only a few[
The gel from the core of the leaves has a similar use as the gel from the leaves of Aloe vera, and is used as a hair wash to promote hair growth and against dandruff and as a cosmetic to improve the complexion and to smooth the skin[
]. Aloe gel is also widely used as a hydrating and skin-protecting agent in creams and liquids such as sun lotion, shaving cream, lip balm and healing ointments[
The leaf ash is used as an insect repellent[
In South Africa Aloe ferox is planted as a live fence[
Seed - sow in a well drained medium in shallow trays and cover lightly with sand or the seed will blow away[
]. Once the seeds begin to germinate, keep moist but watch out for overwatering as the seedlings could rot[
]. Transplant into small pots or bags once they are about 4cm high (approximately 6 months)[
Plants can also be propagated by planting of the tops of old plants[
Plant regeneration from root and embryo tissue is successful as well[