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Aloes growing in the Mediterranean Biome

Gel from the leaves of this plant is thought to have healing properties and is used in cosmetics, herbal remedies and food supplements. It grows in the South Africa Exhibit in our Mediterranean Biome.

Botanical description

  • Scientific name: Aloe ferox
  • Family: Xanthorrhoeaceae (aloe)
  • Also known as: Cape aloe, Tapaalwyn (Afrikaans)

Succulent, stem up to 3.5m tall, in natural conditions clothed with dead leaves. Leaves smooth to spiny, arranged in rosettes of 50-60. Flowering structure (inflorescence) single spike, flowers scarlet to orange. Pollinated by birds and honeybees.


  • The scientific name refers to the spiky leaves: ferox means fierce in Latin.
  • Gel from leaves is used to soothe irritated skin, like its relative Aloe vera.
  • A hard resinous product extracted from this plant, known as Cape aloes or aloe lump, is used as a laxative (to make people need to go for a poo!) and to treat arthritis.
Close up of an aloe ferox

Where it grows

Native to the South African provinces of Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal. It grows on rocky hills, grassy fynbos and on the edges of the Karoo National Parks. Fynbos is Afrikaans for ‘fine bush’, which refers to the evergreen, fire-prone shrubs that live in the nutrient poor soil. This area of South Africa has one of the greatest varieties of plants on Earth and is botanically richer than the rainforest.


  • Succulent: plant or plant part consisting of juicy flesh.

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