Monday, April 26, 2010

South Africa in Berkeley: Aloe Saponaria in the Botanical Garden

Aloe saponaria is a flowering plant. The peach to coral-red flowers are tubular-shaped and build firework-like clusters. The stalks sometimes reach a height of three feet. The thick fleshy leaves form a rosette similar to the American aloe, known as agave. Both belong to the order Asparagales, wherein they belong to different families: Aloe saponaria to the Asphodelaceae family (formerly Liliaceae family), and the American aloe to the Agavaceae family. The genus aloe (sometimes spelled aloë) within the Asphodelaceae family contains over hundred species of flowering succulent plants that occur in Africa, islands off the African coast and the Arabian peninsula.

Aloe saponaria is native to arid regions in South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. Other names for this salt- and drought-tolerant species such as African aloe, soap aloe, and zebra aloe indicate geographic location, cultural significance, and leave pattern. Aloe saponaria is also a popular ornamental species planted, for example, in Arizona in the Tuscon area next to agaves and cacti. The plant in the picture is part of the Southern Africa collection in the University of California Botanical Garden. A walk through this and New World sections in the garden invites for a comparison of aloe and agave species.

[1] Aloe saponaria Haworth (syn. Aloe maculata).
[2] Plant of the week: Aloe saponaria.
[3] University of Connecticut: Aloe saponaria (Ait.) Haw.

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