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Useful Tropical Plants

Aloe ferox

Mill.

Xanthorrhoeaceae

+ Synonyms

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

Aloe ferox
Cultivated plant in the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden, S. Africa
Photograph by: Marco Schmidt
Creative Commons License
Aloe ferox Aloe ferox Aloe ferox Aloe ferox Aloe ferox

General Information

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[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
,
423
Title
Desert Tropicals
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.desert-tropicals.com/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
The main focus of the site is succulent plants, but it also contains information on a wide range of other species. Usually at least one good photograph, plus basic information about the plant and its cultivation.
,
663
Title
Flora of Southern Africa
Publication
 
Author
Roux J.P.
Website
http://plants.jstor.org/search?st=662545
Publisher
 
Year
2003
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line resource.
].
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[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. Although considerable quantities of Cape aloe are marketed and used locally, most of the exudate produced in South Africa is exported[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

Known Hazards

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[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. Long term use of anthraquinone laxatives may also play a role in development of colorectal cancer as they have genotoxic potential, and tumorigenic potential[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

Botanical References

200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

Range

South Africa - Cape Province.

Habitat

Abundant on arid rocky hillsides up to 1,000 metres altitude[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. Also found in grassy fynbos and on the edges of the karoo. It grows both in the open and in bushy areas[
295
Title
PlantZAfrica.com
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent site giving detailed descriptions and uses of many S. African plants.
].

Properties

Edibility Rating *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *  *  *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *  *
HabitEvergreen Shrub
Height3.00 m
Growth RateSlow
PollinatorsBirds, Bees
Self-fertileNo
Cultivation StatusCultivated, Ornamental, Wild

Cultivation Details

Aloe ferox is indigenous to the arid subtropical areas of South Africa, but it is now widely grown throughout the tropics and subtropics[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. It grows in a wide range of climatic conditions. It is especially abundant where mean temperatures range from 27 - 31°c and annual rainfall ranges from 50 - 300mm[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. Plants can withstand light frost, with occasional short-lived temperatures as low as -4°c, although the flowers may be damaged at -2°c[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
,
423
Title
Desert Tropicals
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.desert-tropicals.com/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
The main focus of the site is succulent plants, but it also contains information on a wide range of other species. Usually at least one good photograph, plus basic information about the plant and its cultivation.
].
Requires a sunny position and a very well-drained soil. Thrives on rich soils[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
], but is also tolerant of poor ones[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
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[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
Although the root system is shallow, the plant can grow under very dry conditions[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
A slow-growing plant[
423
Title
Desert Tropicals
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.desert-tropicals.com/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
The main focus of the site is succulent plants, but it also contains information on a wide range of other species. Usually at least one good photograph, plus basic information about the plant and its cultivation.
].
Cape aloe has a stem surrounded with a persistent layer of dead leaves that insulate it in the case of bush fires[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. Harvesting of Aloe ferox leaves for medicinal purposes could thus result in significant mortality due to fires[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

Edible Uses

The gel from the leaves has been used in South Africa to make a jam that tastes like watermelon jam[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. It is also gaining importance as a refreshing and nutritive ingredient in food and drinks[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

Dry leaves are harvested and crushed, after which a decoction is used to make a herbal tea[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

The flowers are sucked for their sweet nectar[
301
Title
Cornucopia II
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications, California.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-9628087-2-5
Description
The second edition of an excellent guide to the edible uses of plants, though it does not give any details of cultivation etc.
].

Medicinal

In southern Africa the thickened, red leaf exudate, called ‘Cape aloe’, is used as a purgative in human and veterinary medicine and fresh exudate is applied in cases of ophthalmia and syphilis[
295
Title
PlantZAfrica.com
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent site giving detailed descriptions and uses of many S. African plants.
,
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. It is also used in the treatment of arthritis[
295
Title
PlantZAfrica.com
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent site giving detailed descriptions and uses of many S. African plants.
].

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[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. It is furthermore used as a hair wash to promote hair growth and against dandruff[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

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[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

Other Uses

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[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. 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[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

The leaf ash is used as an insect repellent[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

In South Africa Aloe ferox is planted as a live fence[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

Propagation

Seed - sow in a well drained medium in shallow trays and cover lightly with sand or the seed will blow away[
295
Title
PlantZAfrica.com
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent site giving detailed descriptions and uses of many S. African plants.
]. Once the seeds begin to germinate, keep moist but watch out for overwatering as the seedlings could rot[
295
Title
PlantZAfrica.com
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent site giving detailed descriptions and uses of many S. African plants.
]. Transplant into small pots or bags once they are about 4cm high (approximately 6 months)[
295
Title
PlantZAfrica.com
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent site giving detailed descriptions and uses of many S. African plants.
].
Plants can also be propagated by planting of the tops of old plants[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
Plant regeneration from root and embryo tissue is successful as well[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

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