Aloe grandidentata Salm.Dyck
Common names: dwarf soap aloe (Eng.); bontaalwyn, kleinbontaalwyn, kanniedood (Afr.); lekghala (Sso.)
A low-growing, cluster-forming aloe with attractive, white-spotted leaves and tall inflorescences of pinkish red, tubular flowers in early spring; well suited to water-wise gardens in arid regions.
Aloe grandidentata is a small, low-growing, stemless, suckering species, with rosettes of toothed, dark green leaves that have attractive dull-white spots and markings on both surfaces.
The flowers are tubular, wider at the apex than the base (clavate), 19–30 mm long, coral-pink to dull red, in dense, conical racemes, on branched, erect inflorescences, up to 900 mm tall, in early spring (August to September).
Aloe grandidentata is widespread and common, and has no significant threats in its habitat, and consequently is assessed as Least Concern (LC) in the Red List of South African plants.
Distribution and habitat
Aloe grandidentata is found in the arid interior of southern Africa, in southern Botswana and in South Africa, where it grows in the North West, Free State and Northern and Eastern Cape Provinces. It occurs in karroid scrub, Kalahari thornveld and on rocky ridges, on ironstone and calcrete.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The name Aloe is derived from the ancient Greek and Arabic names for the dried juice of aloe leaves. The species name grandidentata means ‘with large teeth’, referring to the leaves.
This large, varied genus of flowering plants includes more than 500 species of perennial, dwarf, climbing, and arboreal succulents. All are evergreen, with fleshy leaves that are usually sword-shaped and often arching, edged with spikes, toothed or spined, and are arranged in rosettes.
Flowers are nectar-rich and can provide food to many insects and birds.
Leaves are fleshy, water-holding, and when cut, release a gel. The leaf gel of some aloes is used in the cosmetic and medicinal industries. For example, the gel of Aloe vera, contains over 75 active constituents, including vitamins, enzymes and minerals, and has been used in cosmetics and medicine in several cultures for millennia. The leaf sap of the soap aloes is said to be traditionally used as soap.
Growing Aloe grandidentata
Grow from seeds, sown in well-drained soil in a seedling tray, in spring or summer. Or lift and divide clumps and remove the small plants from the mother plant (offsets), in late spring.
Aloe grandidentata is easy to grow and does well in gardens. Grow them in well-drained, sandy soil, in an open, sunny to semi-shaded position. Water moderately to sparingly in summer. They will thrive in hot, dry conditions and should withstand moderate frost and are well-suited to water-wise gardens, rockeries and containers. Plants sucker freely and clumps expand to form large groups.
Common problems with aloes are overwatering or growing them in wet conditions, which can lead to rotting; they are also prone to sapsucking insects, which are often found beneath the leaves near the base of the plant, as well as pests such as aphids, mealybug and white aloe scale and fungal diseases, such as leaf spot and root rot.
- Flora of southern Africa. Aloe grandidentata. Accessed via JSTOR: https://plants.jstor.org/stable/10.5555/al.ap.flora.flosa000160220600105
- iNaturalist. Observation of Aloe grandidentata by David Hoare on 5 Sep. 2017. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/37423103
- iNaturalist. Observation of Aloe grandidentata by Jan-Hendrik Keet on 24 Aug. 2013. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/10893140
- Ngalo, S. 2010. Aloe maculata All. (Asphodelaceae). PlantZAfrica. Online. http://pza.sanbi.org/aloe-maculata
- Surjushe, A., Vasani, R., & Saple, D.G. 2008. Aloe vera: a short review. Indian journal of dermatology 53(4):163–166.
- Von Staden, L. 2018. Aloe grandidentata Salm-Dyck. National Assessment: Red List of South African plants version 2020.1. Accessed on 2021/03/2.
Free State National Botanical Garden
Acknowledgements: images of Aloe grandidentata in flower by Jan-Hendrik Keet and David Hoare, from their observations on iNaturalist.
Plant Type: Succulent
SA Distribution: Eastern Cape, Free State, North West, Northern Cape
Soil type: Sandy
Flowering season: Spring, Winter
PH: Acid, Neutral
Flower colour: Red, Orange
Aspect: Full Sun