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Origin and Habitat: Aloe pictifolia is restricted to quartzitic sandstone cliffs (all aspects) overlooking the Kouga River near Hankey in the Humansdorp district, Eastern Cape of South Africa (Extent of occurrence 300 km2).
Altitude range: 250-500 metres above sea level.
Habitat and ecology: Aloe pictifolia grows in inaccessible, sheer rock faces and ledges on quartztic sandstone in full sun or partial shade in Gamtoos Thicket of the Albany Thicket Biome. It branches into great clusters which overhang rocks, the curving leaves reflexed or ascending. The average daily maximum temperature of the area is about 25ºC and the average daily minimum about 10ºC. Winters are cooler but frost is a rarity or absent. Rainfall occurs during winter and summer and ranges between 400 and 500 mm per annum. Associated succulents in its habitat include: Cyrtanthus flammosus, Cyrtanthus montanus, Gasteria glomerata, Haworthia gracilis var. picturata, Haworthia viscosa, Plectranthus verticillatus, Othonna lobata, Cotyledon tomentosa, Crassula rupestris 'Kouga form' and Adromischus cristatus var. zeyheri. Plants are pollinated by sunbirds and seeds are wind-dispersed. The plant is also well established in cultivation and is grown by succulent plant growers all over the world.
- Aloe pictifolia D.S.Hardy
ENGLISH: Kouga aloe
AFRIKAANS (Afrikaans): Kouga -aalwyn
Description: Aloe pictifolia (Speckled Aloe) attractive small aloe up to 200-300 mm tall that slowly forms small groups of leaf rosettes . The blue-grey-green leaves are ornamented with many white spots. Out of habitat, this plant is reminiscent of Aloe microstigma, to which it is probably closely related. Individual heads resemble plants of Aloe krapohliana, but that plant is solitary, not clumped, and the ecological requirements of these two species are quite different.
Derivation of specific name: The name `pictifolia' means `painted leaves', a reference to the extensively white-spotted surface its leaves.
Habit Plants usually form small to dense groups of up to seven rosettes 20-25 cm in diameter.
Stem: Short, creeping, ascending to hanging up to 12 cm long, with persistent dead leaf-bases and branching at base.
Rosettes: At first the leaves are arranged in opposite rows (distichous) but later form rosettes of 16-40 leaves.
Leaves: Narrowly spear-shaped up to 120-175 mm long but no wider than about 25 mm at the base. Both sides of the leaves are glaucous and covered with many small white spots, lower face with prickles on a keel near tip. Small reddish-brown, pungent, teeth to 1 mm long, 4-5 mm apart are present along the margins. In plants growing in a level position the leaves are ascending, but often in varying ways on the same rosette, with some curving inward and a few sideways, and they become recurved when the stem is hanging. Margins armed with small reddish teeth. Apex sharp ending in a prickle (mucro). During wet conditions the leaves are greyish-green and become very turgid and almost rounded (subterete); during dry spells they become flattened and turn pinkish-green to dark purple.
Inflorescene: Unbranched 20 to 35 cm long, erectly spreading or horizontal, with a cylindrical-acuminate ascending laxly or densely flowered raceme, 14-17 cm long and 3.5-4 cm in diameter. Peduncle 200-400 mm long. Bracts ovate-acute to spathulate, obtuse, 6-10 mm long 3-4 mm wide, 7-nerved.
Flowers : Nodding, 15-18 mm long, cylindric, scarlet, dull red or pinkish, with a yellow or greenish mouth when open. Pedicels 11-15 mm long. Base rounded 3 - 4 mm in diameter across the ovary, slightly narrowing to mouth; Tepals free to base. Anthers exserted up to 2 mm. Ovary 2.5-4.0 x 1.5 mm, Style exserted up to 2 mm long.
Blooming season: Aloe pictifolia flowers during spring (in habitat October to November), but sporadically also at other times.
Fruits (capsules): About 15 mm long and 6 mm in diameter.
Seeds: Angular, grey-black and up to 4 x 2 mm.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) San Marcos Growers contributors “Aloe pictifolia - Speckled Aloe ” San Marcos Growers <http://www.smgrowers.com>. Web. 27 Sep. 2014.
2) Glen, H.F. & Hardy, D.S. “Aloaceae (first part): Aloe.” Flora of southern Africa 5,1,1. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria. 2000
3) Hardy, D.S. “A new species of Aloe from the Humansdorp District.” Bothalia 12: 62. 1976
4) Ernst van Jaarsveld Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden 28 July 2008. "Aloe pictifolia D.S.Hardy " SANBI - South African National Biodiversity Institute, South Africa. <http://www.plantzafrica.com> Web. 20 Oct. 2014.
5) Doreen Court “Succulent Flora of Southern Africa” CRC Press, 01/Jun/2000
6) Domitilla Raimondo “Red list of South African plants 2009” South African National Biodiversity Institute, 2009
7) Gideon Smith, Braam Van Wyk “Aloes in Southern Africa” International Pub Marketing, 2008
8) Dr J.P. Roux “Flora of South Africa” 2003
Cultivation and Propagation: Aloe pictifolia is easy to grow, requiring very little care. In the wild this plant grows on cliffs. Easy to grow and good for small pots. Suckers vigorously.
Growing rate: It grow slowly, but not agonisingly so being able to increase is height by 10-20 (or more) cm per year under favourable conditions.
Potting medium: Always use a good quality, loamy sandy soil with plenty of drainage chips at the bottom of containers.
Fertilization: The plants are fertilized only once during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer diluted to ½ the recommended strength.
Watering: It tolerates weekly watering in the summer; once a month, or not at all in the colder months of December and January. Can withstand long periods of drought, but it will thrive and flower more profusely if watered in the correct season. The plants will benefit from a regular mulch of compost.
Exposition: The plant needs full sun to light shade, with some sun exposure the leaf develops a nice reddish tint and remains compact.
Hardiness: It can take a few degrees of frost in winter as well, but prefers hot summers. It grows much better outdoors in spring and summer. In mild climates it can be cultivated outdoors for use in landscaping, preferably planting it in hot and dry rock gardens. It will grow best in regions with a climate close to that of its native deserts not too cold, and not too wet. In areas where frost is experienced, it is best grown as a container subject in a greenhouse under controlled environmental conditions.
Pest and diseases: Incorrect watering, poor drainage or too much shade can lead to attack by pests and diseases.
Gardening: This aloe can be grown in large, rocky, well-drained soil in gardens in drier areas. It is very drought resistant but susceptible to frost. They make particularly nice low maintenance garden plants which are especially attractive when in flower in the barren winter months.
Medicine: Aloe pictifolia} is not recorded as a medicinal plant.
Propagation: Propagation is easy, from both division or seed planted in autumn, in trays of coarse river sand. Seed germinates within 3 weeks and plants will flower in the third year. Branches (if available) can also be detached for propagation. cuttings must be dried out for at least 1 week before planting in river sand.
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