Aloe X spinosissima

spider aloe


Aloe X spinossissima

Jahand 1933

pronounced: AL-oh hybrid spin-oh-sis-SEE-muh

(Xanthorrhoeaceae — the grass tree family)

subfamily: Asphodeloideae


common name: spider aloe

Aloe is from an Arabic word, alloeh, ‘shining bitter substance’; spinosissima is from the Latin spinosissimus, very full of thorns.

This is probably a garden hybrid between Aloe arborescens and Aloe humilis, originating in South Africa. It is one of the more manageably-sized aloes, growing only to about 60 cm tall (90 cm tall in flower), and extending slowly by rhizome into clumps of much the same width. Although the specific suggests a plant with ferocious spines, the teeth on the leaf margins are not, in fact, very large or sharp, although handling the plant should still be done with care.

This is a robust plant, even standing up to a certain amount of hail, and reasonably salt-resistant. It pups profusely, and is a great filler in a garden of succulents. The plants pictured are in such a garden on the Picnic Bay sea front. It does not require a great deal of water, and should be allowed to dry out between waterings. It also does well in a fairly large pot, and likes sunlight.

Basal clumps of inrolled pointed yellowish green succulent strap-shaped leaves grow wider when the plant is in sun, and thinner when it is in shade. The texture of the leaves is coarse. The leaf margins bear well-spaced teeth, and white pustules on the surface.

The inflorescence is a spike of tubular orange-red flowers, which are followed by green fruits. It is best to remove the dead stalks after flowering. Humming birds are attracted to the flowers.

Propagation is by dividing rhizomes or from offsets. Any cut surfaces should be allowed to callous over before planting. It may also be grown from seed, directly sowed.

Aloes are distributed across sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar and Arabia. They feature in prehistoric rock art by bushmen, and have been cultivated for thousands of years. In ancient Egypt they were used medicinally, and also in embalming. They were known to the Greeks by 400 BC: Dioscorides (41 – 68 AD) recommends aloe applied externally for wounds, hemorrhoids, ulcers and hair loss, and internally as a laxative.

Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.

Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2015
Page last updated 4th October 2018