PLANTS
Aloe cooperi 

Family name: Aloaceae
Common names: isiPutumane / isiPhukutwane (Zulu), Cooper's aloe

Aloe cooperi is a South African grassland aloe. It was discovered by Burchell in his early travels in South Africa and was rediscovered by Thomas Cooper, after whom it was named. It occurs in moist habitats and in dry rocky areas, mainly in Natal, Swaziland and Mpumalanga. Aloe cooperi grows singly or in small groups from offshoots at ground level. Plants may be stemless or short stemmed up to 15cm high. The leaves are often yellowish green with the upper surface usually unspotted, though occasionally they have a few white spots lower down. The inflorescence is simple and bold. The flowers of Aloe cooperi vary in colour from greenish-cream to apricot and salmon pink.


Flowering occurs from December near the coast and January or February inland. Aloe cooperi subsp cooperi is not threatened but the conservation status of Aloe cooperi subsp pulchra is insufficiently known. Young shoots and flowers are cooked and eaten as vegetables by the Zulu people. The Zulu people also believe that the smoke from burning leaves of Aloe cooperi in the cattle kraal will protect the cattle from the ill effects of eating improper food.
Cooper's aloe also attracts nectar feeding birds such as sunbirds and makes a striking addition to a flower bed.

Growing Aloe cooperi

Aloe cooperi grows well in cultivation. In warm areas the leaves remain evergreen but in cold climates they die back in winter and for this reason it is also regarded as a good waterwise garden plant as it needs no watering in winter.

Propagate Aloe cooperi from seed sown in a seedling growth media mixture of sifted potting soil and river sand (1:1). Treat the seed mixture with fungicides to prevent damping-off which is a common problem when growing aloes from seed. Seedlings should be planted in small pots using sandy well drained soil.
Thompson T Mutshinyalo
Witwatersrand National Botanical Garden

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