Aloe ferox var. galpinii
Aloe ferox var. incurva
Aloe ferox var. subferox
Aloe perfoliata var. ferox
Aloe supralaevis var. erythrocarpa
Aloe ferox is native of South Africa, where it can be found especially in the provinces of KwalaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape province, but also in southern east Lesotho and in part of Free state. As the range of distribution is wide, Aloe ferox is a really adaptable species and has a various range of habitats, but it’s frequently found in groups on rocky slopes. It can be also found in the edges of Karoo desert. Aloe ferox grows in both types of areas: open and bushy areas.
Aloe ferox, also called “Bitter Aloe”, can grow until 2-3 meters. Its leaves are arranged in rosettes, and the elder ones dry up and remain attached to the plant creating a kind of petticoat upon its stem. The adult plant, with its leaves curving downwards, has a really elegant aspect. The leaves are blue-green, sometimes with also a reddish hint, and their margins are provided with spines, which are sometimes present also on both the leaves’ surfaces. Inflorescence is usually from five to eight branched, and each branch develops an ear-like raceme, very densely covered with red-orange flowers, which attract many species of birds. Aloe ferox is also called “Aloe candelabrum” because its inflorescence look like a candelabra, as it’s really branched. Flowering occurs between May to August, depending on the area in which the plant lives: in colder areas, flowering can be delayed until September.
Aloe ferox prefer to live in a bright position, directly exposed to sunlight. It is used to rocky areas, so its substrate should be well-drained, sandy. It cannot stand temperature below 0ºC, so, in temperate regions of northern hemisphere with particularly cold winters, it’s better to keep it indoors, although this is a big plant. The best option is to plant it outdoors and protect it in winter with mulching or a mobile little greenhouse. Watering is abundant in the hot period, but it’s advisable to wait until the soil is completely dry before each watering.
Aloe ferox can be propagated by seeds. You can seed it in a well-draining medium, shallow pot. The seed can easily be blown away, so cover it with little sand. When the seeds start to germinate, keep the soil moist until the little plant is completely developed.
Aloe-based products (and in particular Aloe Vera varieties) have been experiencing a period of intense commercial exploitation for some years, which is only partially justified by the actual plant properties.