The Bitter Aloe – Widespread and Adaptable

A guest post by Estie for Notes from Africa

Last month in the post A drive to Hell and back there were some photographs of Aloe Ferox (Bitter Aloe) plants near the Swartberg Pass in the Southern Cape. Estie provides further information and photographs . . .

Bitter Aloe (Aloe ferox) at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in Cape Town, South Africa.

Wildspread and adaptable

The bitter Aloe can be seen growing wild from the Swellendam area, in the Western Cape, through the Eastern Cape into Southern Kwazulu-Natal. It grows in a wide range of habitats, including mountain slopes, rocky places, flat open places, and is found in grassland, grassy fynbos, on the margins of the Karoo, in both very dry and relatively wet places.

How true this caption (found at Kirstenbosch next to a Bitter Aloe) is. During a recent trip to the Karoo and Eastern Cape, I saw lots of sheep, wild springbok and other antelope, but my eyes registered the Aloe plants you find in the Karoo, Kirstenbosch and in Kommetjie. From nature conservation areas to gardens in the cities.

They are big striking plants and when they are in flower they make such a beautiful display that they have to brighten up your day.

Here they are seen at Kirstenbosch, the famous Botanical Gardens in Cape Town.

Aloe ferox is listed on the CITES list of endangered plants along with other wild species of this genus. So at Kirstenbosch, Aloes are sold at the annual plant sales along with other succulents.

Some more Aloes and succulents for sale . .

Additional Aloe Ferox facts (from Wikipedia)

  • The species is indigenous to South Africa and Lesotho.
  • The plants can grow to 10 feet (3.0 m) in height.
  • What makes the Bitter Aloe so special is not just its beauty, but also its medicinal value. Its leaves contain two juices; the yellow bitter sap is used as a laxative, and the white aloe gel is used in health drinks and skin care products. The sap, however, is toxic to pregnant and breast feeding mothers . . . Read more
  • Although the home remedies in which Aloe ferox are used are the same as those of Aloe vera, Aloe ferox is in less demand.

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Categories: Guest Bloggers, Nature/Environment


I am a Life Science teacher (another scientist trying to write), living near Cape Town, with a passion for nature, reading and crafts.


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17 Comments on “The Bitter Aloe – Widespread and Adaptable”

  1. July 20, 2011 at 7:45 am #

    Fascinating… I always enjoy the sight of their bold flowers, so triumphantly held aloft like a burning flame, growing wild along the roadside. They always make me think “road trip”!

    Did you know that, in the small town of Albertinia on the N2, there are two aloe factories? One is Alcare Aloe (or The House of Aloes) and right next to it is Aloe Ferox. I wonder whether they give tours?

  2. Estie
    July 20, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    Yes, I know about those factories and I love to buy goodies there. Tours would be very interesting, we have to find out about that.

  3. July 20, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    How stunning the plants are when blooming! I have never seen such giant aloes in the US—or anywhere else in the world I’ve been. It’s great fun learning about them. Thanks, Estie! And thanks, Lisa, for another great post. We love you, Estie–and Lisa, too, of course!

    • Estie
      July 21, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

      Thanks for your kind comment.

  4. jacquelincangro
    July 20, 2011 at 10:05 pm #

    Beautiful orange flowers! It looks like these plants aren’t very high maintenance. Perfect for me. 🙂
    Thanks for a really informative post, Estie!

  5. Estie
    July 21, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    They are great plants to forget about and then notice when the have great flowers.

  6. Lu
    July 22, 2011 at 3:34 pm #

    Lovely post Estie!

    • Estie
      July 31, 2011 at 8:53 pm #

      Thank you. In our local paper were a whole series of people who took Aloe pictures during our winter holiday. It is seems that they made an impression on a lot of people.

  7. July 22, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    Lovely pics. Aloes have become one of my favorite things about South Africa.

    • Estie
      July 31, 2011 at 8:54 pm #

      Glad you like them. I love the aloes.

  8. July 23, 2011 at 7:03 am #

    The pictures look amazing.

  9. Estie
    July 31, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    Thank you, I am just enjoying nature and try to capture it.

  10. alvin
    July 28, 2015 at 7:00 am #

    Ps. Never cut open the aloe plant and taste the green slimy juice coming out of it. Take my advice and don’t do it….

    • August 28, 2015 at 7:03 pm #

      Hi Alvin! Thanks for your comment. Do you have personal experience of this?!

  11. Himanshu Nire
    January 30, 2018 at 9:05 am #

    You’ve really captured them well. Bravo! This industry is clearly booming in South Africa. You’ve done a great job.
    Aloe Vera is the most commercialized aloe species, and processing the leaf pulp has become a worldwide industry. In the cosmetic industry, it has been used as base material for the production of creams, lotions, soaps, shampoos, facial cleansers and other products. In the food and complementary medicinal industry, it has been used as an ingredient in health beverages. At ACAP, we specialize in using good agricultural and organic farming and state of the art processes to harvest Aloe Vera, nature’s gift to a healthy life.
    Aloe Vera falls into the category of complementary medicines and is conjunctive in the use and treatment of conventional medication. A review, released by the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Tshwane University of Technology, detailed the pharmaceutical properties that have recently been discovered for both the Aloe Vera gel and whole leaf extract. For more details, please visit

  12. March 26, 2018 at 11:46 am #

    Whoa! pretty neat article. One more thing that’s noteworthy are the organic aloe vera products booming in town. You have got to check them out.


  1. Weekend in Riversdale – Part 1: Cape Town to Riversdale « Grains of Sand - October 12, 2011

    […] Apart from the sunshine-yellow canola fields, the orange-red flaming staffs of the aloes on the side of the road had caught my eyes. I suddenly remembered that Estie, who sometimes writes guest-blogs on Lisa’s Notes from Africa blog had recently written a post about aloes. […]

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