My number one fan aloe
I liked this species the first time I saw it in South Africa. The Fan Aloe, Aloe plicatilis, does what is says. It's leaves peal back from stem in a single plane creating a fan-like arrangement.
The species name plicatalis means pleated like a fan. Local Afrikaans names include (according to The Aloe Names Book, Strelizia no. 28) Bergaalwyn, Franschhoekaalwee, French Hoek Aloe, Kokerboom, Tongaalwyn and Waaieraalwyn - in case you were asking.
This is on the the tree aloes. Again, it does what it says on the packet and grows into a trees, of sorts. At least it has stout stem or two. It grows naturally only in the the famous fynbos vegetation, above 1000 metres altitude on rocky mountain slopes in Western Cape Province, South Africa. This region gets high winter rainfall and, where Aloe plicatilis grows, some snow as well.
Like most aloes it has pink to red flowers in winter or early spring (i.e. now!). If you want to know why it's an aloe and not an agave? See my post from 2010.
I first saw it in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, in Cape Town, and then at one of its sister gardens, the Harold Porter Botanical Garden, at nearby Bettys Bay.
What caught my eye in South Africa was the blood red blotch of colour on the stem below the neatly criss-crossed leaf bases. In the pot I have in my porch for a week (photographed above) the colour is more a muted pink. It's one of two we grow in Kew's Tropical Nursery. Perhaps it needs the hot Cape summer, or maybe a little snow.
My final two pictures are from my South African trip in 2005, the first from in a glasshouse at Kirstenbosch, the other from Harold Porter. If you want to find out more about this species, or indeed any of the aloe species, Kew has just published a book called Aloe: the Definitive Guide.