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Monday, June 14, 2010

Aloe variegata, Partridge-breasted Aloe

To mark the beginning of the football World Cup in South Africa, here's a familiar South African succulent species - the partridge-breasted aloe, Aloe variegata, that's widely grown as a houseplant here in Britain. I assume the common name comes from the  similarities in pattern between those beautifully variegated leaves and a bird's breast feathers, but the more direct connection between aloes and birds relates to their flowers. Like many red-flowered plants these aloes are often pollinated by birds - usually sugarbirds, which occupy the pollination niche that's filled by hummingbirds in the New World, but without their aerial agility. They are both after the same reward though - nectar, which is secreted inside those tubular flowers. You can find a guide to Aloe species here .