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  Alöe erinacea
(Syn: Aloe melanacantha var. erinacea)

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Aloe erinacea (A juvenile specimen)
This is a very rare white-spined, somewhat dwarf version of A melanocantha
, and  is not easily mistaken for another Aloe specie.  It's a true gem.

Description: Only 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 it 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.  They are 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.
 Red, turning yellow, tubular in shape and droop ± 28 mm.
Blooming season: Summer, but this species
it is reluctant to bloom, and for a seedling the first bloom would not 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.



Family: Asphodelaceae

Scientific name:  Aloe erinacea D.S. Hardy
Bothalia 10[2]: 366 ; (1971).

Origin Namibia (Lüderitz district and southwards to Witputs)

Habitat:  Grows in very arid areas in rocky and sandy soils on the northern hills and mountains at 900 - 1350 m. in altitude.

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.




  • Aloe melanacantha var. erinacea (D.S. Hardy) G.D. Rowley
    In: Excelsa 9: 71, 80, (1980) Type: Lüderitz district (Hardy 2619 [PRE])
  • Aloe melanacantha A. berger
    In:BJS 36: 63, 1905

Aloe erinacea 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 group include Aloe peglerae, A. broomii, A. polyphylla, A. cryptopoda, A. gloubuligemma, A. haemanthifolia 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.  It is 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 plants 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: 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 until September or so, when its growing season is beginning.


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Home | E-mail | Plant files | Mail Sale Catalogue | Links | Information | Search

All the information and photos in cactus art files are now available also in the new the Encyclopaedia of Succulents. We hope you find this new site informative and useful.