29 March, 2010

Scandent Scarlet

Think of an English country garden. A Large English Country Garden. With a Rambling Rector in an old apple tree. Now scale your thoughts down again. This is a climbing aloe. The only one amongst 450 species which climbs.

It looks a bit odd compared to most aloes or agave, which have a single tidy rosette of leaves. This one is somehow stretched out, long, and thin. Like a lounge lizard, it leans gracefully where it can. Gives nothing, takes nothing. Mine host is just a convenient resting place. Another plant from the Eastern Cape thickets (SANParks Addo Elephants?) If you plant it in a little dappled shade, you may forget all about it.

Until flickering fire appears above mine host. The flowers are scarlet, with yellow tips and twiddly bits - the colours of a candle flame. And the scandent (shrub) in the title? The lounge lizard habit, of climbing up thru the supporting branches, to display the flowers in the sun, where they can be admired. As a typical aloe, you can simply harvest bits. Tuck them in the ground. And they will grow. And grow. And grow. This bit came from our Camps Bay garden. A passalong like Bulbine, and just as surprisingly pretty when it blooms.

Aloe ciliaris renamed Aloiampelos ciliaris
in the Asphodel/Aloe family

Almost all aloes come from Africa and its islands. Young aloes have opposite leaves, older plants leaves are in a spiral. This aloe can climb 10 metres or more. Stems lying on the ground will root. Flowering almost throughout the year (tho ours have just flowered now, with the first rain and cooler temperatures). Grow in dry river valleys, in thorny thickets dominated by succulent plants. Rain mostly in the summer with dry winters (but it grows happily in our Mediterranean climate). Ciliaris refers to the teeth, arranged like eyelashes around the base of the leaf. Pollinated by sunbirds. Shallow roots use the upper humus rich soil layer. As a climber, it grows fast. NOT resistant to heavy frost. Drought tolerant, and will take high rainfall if well drained (ours lives on our Karoo Koppie).

Photos and words by Diana of Elephant's Eye

Photographs and Copyright

Photographs are from Diana Studer or Jurg Studer.
My Canon PowerShot A490

If I use your images or information, it will be clearly acknowledged with either a link to the website, or details of the book. If you use my images or words, I expect you to acknowledge them in turn.

Midnight in Darkest Africa

Midnight in Darkest Africa
For real time, click on the map.