Aloe pluridens Haw.
Common names: French aloe (Eng.), Fransaalwyn, garaa (Afr.)
SA Tree No: 30.1
Aloe pluridens is an attractive plant which bears large rosettes of gracefully recurved leaves on tall, slender stems and is well suited to coastal gardens.
This is a tall, slender aloe, 2-3 m tall, occasionally reaching up to 5 or 6 m high. It has large rosettes of gracefully recurved leaves. It may be single-stemmed or branched and occasionally bears numerous small plantlets on the otherwise smooth stems. The leaves are bright green to yellowish-green and may be up to 700 mm in length. The leaf margin is armed with firm white teeth. The leaf sap is clear with a strong, rhubarb-like smell. The old dried leaves form a 'skirt' around the stem, below the rosette of leaves.
Showy, branched inflorescences have up to 4 flowerheads held above the leaves. The flowers are usually orange or pinkish-red, but a yellow form is also known. Up to three inflorescences may be borne from each rosette. It flowers in autumn and winter, from May to July.
Least Concern (LC). Aloe pluridens is not threatened in its natural habitat.
Distribution and habitat
Aloe pluridens occurs naturally in a broad coastal belt from the Humandsorp in the Eastern Cape to Durban in KwaZulu-Natal and as far inland as Somerset East. It is particularly common in the Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and the Albany districts where it is normally associated with dense thicket vegetation and its rosettes of leaves may be seen protruding above the surrounding bush. They are usually seen growing on deep sandy soil. Most of the rain falls in summer, but it is erratic and not much rain falls in a year.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
Aloe pluridens was named by Haworth in the Philosophical Magazine Issue 299, in October 1824. The species name means 'many toothed' and is derived from the Latin pluri meaning 'many' and dens meaning 'teeth', referring to the toothed leaves.
The origin of the common name 'French Aloe' is unknown. The name garaa is its Khoisan name.
This aloe was introduced into cultivation in England in the 1820s by James Bowie (1789-1869). Bowie was a plant collector for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He collected plants from Brazil and was in South Africa between 1816 and 1823. He emigrated to the Cape in 1827 and died here in 1869. His last employment was as a gardener at the Arderne Garden in Claremont. He undertook many expeditions and collected many plants, and contributed much to our knowledge of aloes and succulents. He was also less than honest, even misleading, about where he found his plants, which detracts from the scientific value of his collections.
Aloe pluridens flowers attract nectar-feeding birds, such as sunbirds, as well as honeybees.
Aloe pluridens is not known to be used medicinally.
Growing Aloe pluridens
Aloe pluridens makes a spectacular garden subject. It is relatively easy to grow and tolerates a wide range of soils. It needs a sunny or semi-shaded spot in well-drained soil, and protection from frost. It is well suited to coastal gardens and is suitable for containers. On the Highveld it should be planted in semi-shade and protected from severe frost. In its natural thicket environment, the surrounding bushes protect the stems from heat and cold.
It is easily propagated by seed sown in spring-summer, or cuttings or truncheons taken in summer. Some plants form plantlets around the stem; these can be detached, placed in damp sand in a cool, semi-shaded spot until they root. Once rooted they can be potted up and grown on, or planted into the garden.
- Boon, Richard. 2010. Pooley's trees of eastern South Africa, a complete guide. Flora & Fauna Publications Trust, Durban.
- Bornman, H. & Hardy, D. 1971. Aloes of the South African Veld. Voortrekker Pers. Johannesburg
- Foden, W. & Potter, L. 2009. Aloe pluridens Haw. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2015.1. Accessed on 2015/12/28
- Jeppe, B. 1974. South African Aloes. 2nd ed. Purnell : Cape Town.
- Reynolds, G.W. 1982. The Aloes of South Africa. A.A.Balkema, Cape Town.
- Palmer, E. & Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of southern Africa, vol 1. Balkema, Cape Town.
- Van Wyk, B. & Smith, G. 1996 . Guide to aloes of South Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Plant Type: Shrub, Succulent, Tree
SA Distribution: Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal
Soil type: Sandy, Loam
Flowering season: Winter
PH: Acid, Neutral
Flower colour: Red, Pink, Orange
Aspect: Full Sun, Morning Sun (Semi Shade), Afternoon Sun (Semi Shade)
Gardening skill: Average