Aloe erinacea (A juvenile specimen)
This is a very rare white-spined, somewhat dwarf version of A
and is not easily mistaken for another Aloe specie.
recently discovered (botanically, that is) in the mid 1980's in
Namibia, it seems strange that such an impressive plant could have
remained unknown for so long.
It is a winter-growing species, related and
very similar to Aloe melanacantha but
can be distinguished
from the latter by its open rosettes of spreading leaves and shorter
flowers. The plant is compact and almost never offsets (in cultivation),
but in habitat it
occurs in clusters of up to10 (or more)
decumbent stems up to 50 cm tall, covered with old leaves bases.
Stem: Stemless even in old specimens, or short-stemmed.
Leaves: Pale grayish-green, blue-grey or brownish green (in full
sun), narrow, deltoid lanceolate, biconvex,
keeled, leaves are curved inwards, which gives the plant its rounded
shape. About 8-16 long x 3-4 cm wide, and armed with sharp white or
black spines, arranged singularly along the keel and margins.
not tender, but firm and can scrape you.
Spines are up to10 mm long, and
are glossy white in the younger leaves. The thorns at the leaf bases
may be shorter and whitish.
Inflorescence: Simple, densely flowered.
Flowers: Red, turning yellow, tubular in shape and droop
± 28 mm.
Blooming season: Summer, but this species
is reluctant to
and for a seedling the first bloom would
be expected until the 25th
year from sowing (or more)
As with other aloes, the seeds are typically winged, small, up to 3 mm
and produced in abundance inside the fruit capsules that split into
three when ripe. Seeds ripen normally around August–September.
erinacea D.S. Hardy
Bothalia 10: 366 ; (1971).
Namibia (Lüderitz district
and southwards to Witputs)
in very arid areas in rocky and sandy soils
on the northern hills and mountains at 900 - 1350 m.
Ecology: Aloe erinacea produces nectar,
and is therefore pollinated by sugar birds as well as winged and
crawling insects such as ants which are small enough to enter the flower
tube in which the nectar is stored.
After fertilization, the fruit,
which is called a capsule, grows quickly and splits into three parts in
spring and summer. The seeds are small, up to 4 mm and slightly winged,
enabling it to be dispersed by the wind.
The plant in itself is very
tough, and can
often survive for several seasons without water, at which
point the leaves turn reddish, a sign generally associated with stress.
melanacantha var. erinacea (D.S. Hardy) G.D. Rowley
In: Excelsa 9: 71, 80, (1980) Type: Lüderitz
district (Hardy 2619 [PRE])
melanacantha A. berger
In:BJS 36: 63, 1905
is placed in
an artificial group of stemless aloes which are mostly unrelated, but
share a stemless or short-stemmed growth habit.
Other species in this
and a number of other species.
Cultivation: Aloe erinacea is one of the slowest
growing specie and quite difficult to care
for, well out of habitat.
also very slow to flower, and it's even rare in its native land
for it to flower.
In cultivation the plant seems to remain exactly the
same size for years.
It's fairly cold tolerant, for an aloe. It does well planted in the ground, but it is rarely grown outdoors since large
are costly, and
it makes such a good potted specimen. This plant does
well in direct sun.
Light fertilizer seems to boost its growth whenever
additional water is given.
Watering: Careful watering
Propagation is by seed, as it seldom offsets. Seeds must be sown as
fresh as possible. When kept too long they are parasitized by small
crawling insects. The best time for sowing would be in the summer from
October to December. Use coarse river sand and cover seeds lightly, then
keep moist. It is advisable to treat seeds with a long-lasting
fungicide, as seedlings are prone to damping off, a fungus that
eventually kills the young plants. If you have a number of them you
could intentionally damage the growing point to see if it will offset,
but wait to do that
September or so, when its growing season is