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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Aloe marlothii

One of the most stunning plants in Africa is the Aloe marlothii. It is found from sea level to high hills in South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique. The plant usually grows to a height ranging from 5-12 feet. (As it grows more tree-like, dead leaves remain on the trunk in habitat as a defense against animal munching.) They put out a flower that is a branched candelabra-shaped with yellow to orange flowers. The mountain aloe is undoubtablty one of Southern Africa ’s most rewarding aloes to grow and adds an interesting slant to aloe culture.

Given to me by a dear RedBubble friend, Antionette, who brought it all the way from Mpumalanga to Tarlton, I was absolutely thrilled to have it! After a recommended period of a few days of letting the roots dry out a bit, I planted it in my wildlife pond area, which receives full sun most of the day.

 8th February 2012

I prepared an area by loosening the soil to a depth of 40cm, leveling it and placing the aloe on top of that, covering the roots lightly with soil and used rocks at the base for support, plus two sticks for extra measure. it has now survived two Tarlton winters and heavy frost and I am absolutely thrilled that it is now established and I’m hoping for some flowers soon!

My Aloe marlothii showing signs of White Scale - Dec 2012 

Like most garden plants, aloes are susceptible to a number of pests and my aloe certainly did not escape an onslaught. A white scale often appears on aloe leaves, starting with what looks like a coin sized spot of white dust. It will gradually covers more and more of the leaf upper and lower surface until large parts of the leaf are affected. The insect involved is enveloped in a hard skin which protects it against predators (and treatment!) while it is sucking sap from the plant. Not only does this make the plant unattractive, but over a long period the plant can be killed slowly. Normally pesticides like Malathion are recommended, but I don't use any commercial pesticides in my garden at all, so my treatment for this pesky insect was to rub the infected parts with my thumb, removing most of the insects, but I wish I had a longer thumb! Marlothii even has spines in the centre of the leaves, which made the job rather torturous! I then wiped the infected leaves with a cloth soaked with dishwashing liquid and after an hour or so I wash away the residue with a strong squirt from a hose pipe. The treatment should be repeated until all signs of the scale disappear. Sometimes the dead scale insects might remain on the leaves, making the plants unattractive, the dead scale may be brushed off with a soft brush.

A mineral oil like Oleum can also be used. The oil in fact smothers the insect. When the problem is spotted early, the scale can even be treated by painting it with used cooking oil.

My aloe marlothii - February 2014, looking good and well to face the coming winter

Common names : mountain aloe (Eng.); bergalwyn (Afr.); inhlaba or umhlaba (Zulu)


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