Just as the Big Five are synonymous with South Africa in the minds of the public, there’s probably no plant more iconic to the South African vista than the fiery aloe. Sometimes called ‘red hot pokers’ when in the suburban garden, these dramatic, beautiful plants rear their spear-like flowers throughout the hills surrounding Saragossa Game Reserve. Today, we shine a spotlight on these beautiful, versatile plants and their critical place in the ecosystem that makes the reserve so special.
Why do aloes flourish here?
Aloes are a very special plant. While you’re probably most familiar with Aloe Vera, the juicy succulent so perfect to help soothe and protect irritated skin, there is actually a large range of Aloe species- but they are only found indigenously in Africa and Madagascar, with many of the species occurring only in South Africa herself.
They’re a drought-hardy plant, which makes them perfect for the dry African climate, and produce decadent loads of nectar and pollen when flowering, keeping the local birdlife very happy and well fed indeed! Aloes are so diverse you’ll find them in everything from a towering ‘tree’ to low lying, clumpy bushes as you’ll see around the farm. Because we lie at a transition point from savannah to riverine forest and the gateway to the lowveld, we are perfectly placed to enjoy the staggering flora abundance they offer. Aloes aren’t picky about their soil, managing to thrive almost anywhere, which makes them perfect for the harsh African sun.
What aloes can I see around the farm?
Mpumalanga offers opportunities to see many of the Aloe family, including the ever-present Krantz aloe [Aloe arborescens], a striking aloe ‘shrub’ with many herbal uses and a firm place in the hearts of many South Africans. The large, colourfully abundant flowers erupt around Saragossa in winter, making a startling display of beauty in the coldest months. Beloved of the little flitting sunbirds, this plant had close ties to the cattle kraals of the Zulu nation, acting as a barrier plant as well as being used to protect women in childbirth, ward off storms and keep poultry and other animals well. It was famously used to treat the nuclear burn victims at Hiroshima, aptly demonstrating it’s anti-ulcer, anti-burn, antibacterial and antifungal powerhouse to the world. So powerful is this remarkable native plant that it has a medicinal history spanning thousands of years, with documented uses in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia!
While you’ll see the most from this remarkable aloe, the area surrounding Saragossa is also home to the Schonland aloe [Aloe dyeri] and Bolus aloe [Aloe alooides]
These exquisite members of the local flora are hardy [they’re even slightly fire resistant], water-friendly, indigenous and undoubtedly gorgeous, standing constant sentinel on the hills surrounding Saragossa Game Reserve. Be sure to take a moment or two to admire their beauty on your stay with us!