Cape Aloe – Aloe ferox

Cape Aloe - Aloe ferox

Important medicinal plant. Bitter aloe. Large spikes of red-orange flowers, attracting many birds including sunbirds. Looks great as pot-plant. Full sun, sandy, well-drained soil, allow to dry between watering’s. Depicted in San rock art.

Common names: Cape aloe, bitter aloe (English); iKhala (Xhosa); iNhlaba (Zulu); bitteraalwyn, bergaalwyn (Afrikaans). 
Botanical name: Aloe ferox

Nature

Endemic to South Africa, Cape Aloe has a distribution that includes the Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape. She has fleshy, succulent leaves with spines along the edges and lower surface. She flowers from from May to August, later if cold, with bright red or orange candle-shaped flowers. The flowers contain nectar, attracting many birds, especially sunbirds, and insects as pollinators.

Cape Aloe is widely distributed and cultivated. She is a popular garden plant that enjoys no conservation concerns.

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Uses & Benefits

The flowers contain nectar, attracting many birds, especially sunbirds, and insects as pollinators.

Cape Aloe is one of the best known South African plants for her medicinal uses for which the inner leaf juice/gel, bitter yellow latex from outer leaf and roots are used.

Cape Aloe is moistening, cooling, soothing, cleansing, protecting, (purging). She is wound healing, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. The latex is strongly laxative and it is not advised to be used without the guidance of a health practitioner.

Traditionally, the leaf gel or sliced leaf was applied topically for wounds, burns, eczema, abrasions, bruises. Orally, she was taken for stomach ache, poor appetite, colitis, constipation, arthritis, hypertension, stress. Modern use has not changed much aside from the fact she is now a common addition to cosmetics and tonic drinks.

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Care & Cultivation

Aloes grow well in wide variety of habitats, from rocky hill slopes to semi-deserts to the Cape’s fynbos region. They like full sun, well-drained compost-enriched sandy soil. Aloes can be propagated from seeds and cuttings, but be careful to not over water cuttings, as this may cause them to rot. Aloes also hybridise easily with other aloes flowering at the same time.

Light-level: shade – semi, sun – afternoon, sun – full, sun – morning
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