Monday, March 15, 2021

Plant Profile: Aloe reitzii (Reitz's Aloe)

Latin name: Aloe reitzii var reitzii ("AL-oh RYEtz-ee-eye VAR RYEtz-ee-eye")
Common name: Reitz's Aloe
Originally from: A very small area on rocky slopes in the grasslands near the Belfast district of Mpumalanga in northern KwaZulu-Natal
Blooms: In summer a huge candelabra of red flowers emerges.
Light: Full sun
Water: Rain is plenty. No summer water needed.
Drainage: Excellent
Height x width: 3' tall x 3' wide
USDA Zones: 8 - 10
Where to find in P. Garden: In the middle front bed

Someone donated a little ceramic pot to the garden way back when we started. In the pot were several succulents, all stuck in place with glued-on gravel. Just the kind of desktop plant torture arrangement designed to be thrown away when the plants inevitably died.

I carefully picked off all the glue and gravel and separated out the plants. One of them was a small aloe of some kind. I potted it up and assumed it would die. To my surprise, it didn't. So it went in the middle front bed, looking very small and vulnerable.

I later found out it was an Aloe reitzii (Reitz's Aloe) - a stemless type of Aloe, that has a single rosette up to 3 feet tall, with long relatively broad silvery blue-green leaves with reddish teeth along the margins. A good medium-sized plant.

The great thing about this Aloe though is that it flowers in summer, unlike most Aloes which are winter flowering. And the flower is great - a huge branching candelabra of orangey-red down-curved flowers that lasts for ages. Every year ours gets more branches and a bigger flowering display.

The summer flowering habit makes it a useful plant in cold areas where the flowers of other Aloes often get frosted off in the winter.

This plant comes from a very small area on rocky slopes in the grasslands near the Belfast district of Mpumalanga in northern KwaZulu-Natal. The entire Belfast district is less than 14 square miles in size, and this Aloe occurs nowhere else.

There is also a winter-blooming form of this plant called Aloe reitzii var. vernalis that comes from The Vryheid District to the south. 

Aloe expert Dr Gilbert W. Reynolds made extensive field trips in search of Aloes in the 1930s-50s, covering more than 150,000 miles on the African continent, Madagascar, and beyond. A Mr. Francis William Reitz pointed out the Aloe to Reynolds, who named it after him in 1937 (or 1943, depending who you ask)

Mr. F. W. Reitz was either the then the South African Minister of Agriculture and nephew of the president of the Orange Free State, or said same president - they shared a name, and the accounts of this naming are vague.  One more reason botanists are rabid for Latin plant naming conventions and there's a lot of squabbling about which plant goes where I guess!

Reitz's Aloe is not difficult to cultivate in the garden or in a container - ours gets full sun and no water. It tolerates both frost (down to 20F) and fire in its natural habitat, and is easily propagated from seed (if you can get them.) Seed grown plants can flower in 5-7 years. Our plant first flowered in about 2009, so now in 2021 it's about 17-19 years old.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Weeds are getting the upper hand

Last workday was a week ago, and I'm just now getting around to blogging about it. Busy times! But as usual it was a great day to be outside, sunny and warm, and we got a lot done.

Chris and I tackled weeds at the top of PG, clearing out around the lovely Agaves in the top bed (and Chris got stabbed in the head but hopefully he's gonna make it...)

John turned the compost. Thank goodness for John, otherwise we'd never have any compost. Then he's basically a triple threat in garden terms (he can also move rocks around, so he's a real MVP)

Bill weeded the street side of the bed behind the wrong way sign. The place where the oxalis weed has been running rampant. He pulled out armfuls of it.

And Matt fixed the tool chest after it was broken into - again... :( When will we get tired of that? Stay tuned! At least nobody steals anything from there anymore... because we leave it unlocked.

Today, Matt and I went back and weeded around the recently planted Aloes and Agaves on the lower path. Poor plants - being covered in weeds will rot them out pretty quickly. I hope we uncovered them in time! 

You can see from the before and after photo that the weeds were really crazy. We got that task done right before the rain came on. Phew!

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