Aloe polyphylla (Spiral Aloe/Kroonaalwyn/Lekhala kharetsa) is a species in the genus Aloe that is endemic to the Kingdom of Lesotho in the Drakensberg mountains.
This aloe is well known for its strikingly symmetrical, five-pointed spiral growth habit.
Name and Taxonomy
Aloe polyphylla is a stemless Aloe and grows its leaves in a very distinctive spiral shape. The plants do not seem to sucker or produce off-shoots, but from the germination of their seeds they can form small, dense clumps. The fat, wide, serrated, gray-green leaves have sharp, dark leaf-tips.
This Aloe flowers at the beginning of summer, producing red-to-pink flowers at the head of robust, branched inflorescences.
The Spiral Aloe grows in high, mountainous, grassy slopes. Here it clings to rocky crevices and well-drained scree slopes. The climate is cool in the summer and in the winter the aloes are often covered in deep snow. The region also has a very high rainfall and this moisture is augmented by the clouds which engulf the Lesotho mountain peaks.
Threats and Conservation
Although it is often mentioned as an endangered species, it does not appear on the 2008 IUCN Red List. However, it is listed in CITES Appendix I, which confirms its status as an endangered and protected species. It is threatened mainly due to illegal collecting - the species is highly sought after as an ornamental but is incredibly difficult to cultivate and usually soon dies if removed from its natural habitat.
Informally buying or collecting the plant is a criminal offense.
- Reynolds, G.W. 1950. The aloes of Southern Africa. Balkema, Cape Town.
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