Plant Combination #4413→Aloe ID question

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Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator
Oct 24, 2018 6:24 PM CST
Hey there Thijs. Smiling I have some questions about the ID of the aloe labeled as massawana in this photo, and I was hoping you would be able to help clear them up. The same issues apply to the plant labeled massawana in this other landscape picture.

I realize the subject came up recently on a thread in the succulent forum, but I was hoping to nail down the ID of these plants before too much time elapses.

The plants in these pictures are not a great match for massawana in a few respects. Based on the shared history of the plants, eumassawana would seem to be a better candidate. The habit is more erect and upright than massawana, which is typically spreading or suberect. The plant appears to be more freely clumping than massawana usually is. The inflorescence seems to be less highly branched (1-3 racemes per inflorescence are predicted for eumassawana, instead of the 3-8 for massawana). The flower color appears closer to orange-red than red/pink.

Here is the 1996 paper where eumassawana was described, along with a revision of massawana restricting it geographically to a southern coastal region in the immediate vicinity of Tanzania.

It would be great to confirm the ID of your plants as eumassawana, if that is what the aloes in question really are. We are currently lacking any good pictures for that species in the database.

The key indicators beyond the characteristics mentioned above are flower length (over an inch for massawana, under an inch for eumassawana) and the presence or absence of fine hairs on the inflorescence (massawana lacks them, eumassawana has them on all parts of the raceme, especially young ones). The Carter paper describes these as papillose-puberulent. The bracts should be twice as long as the pedicels on eumassawana, instead of about the same size on massawana.

Finally eumassawana is not generally capable of reproducing by seed (apparently infertile), except for a population from Djibouti which can be distinguished by its unbranched inflorescences. Do your plants make fruit and seed?

If you are unable to see fine hairs on young flowers, and/or the plants in your landscape shots make fruit and seed, then they're not eumassawana. In that case I would hazard a guess of maybe officinalis (whose flowers are over an inch but lack the fine hairs), or maybe it would be better to call them Aloe without a species name. If you are able to see the fine hairs on the young flowers, it would be awesome if you could take a revealing pic for the database.

I realize this is a lot of super detailed information, but if you're up for a close inspection of those flowers next time they show up, maybe we can pin the ID down once and for all. (At least until the plants change name again.) Smiling
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Oct 24, 2018 6:31 PM (+)]
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Name: Thijs van Soest
Tempe, AZ (Zone 9b)
Region: Arizona Enjoys or suffers hot summers Cactus and Succulents Xeriscape Adeniums Hybridizer
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Oct 24, 2018 10:27 PM CST

I think you are correct and my plants are almost certainly eumassawana, but to me at least the eumassawana/massawana difference was unknown until about a couple of months ago when I was dealing with the Huntington ISI plant release, but I had not yet put a and b together with regards to the ID of my own plants, which had been identified as A. massawana, till the discussion in the recent thread. It appears to be a very common occurrence as the eumassawana/massawana distinction seems not very widely known - as is apparent from the Huntington description with their eumassawana release.
And to really know you have to track that original paper down like you did or maybe A:TDG has enough of a description in it.

I will make the change as I think the clumping behavior is obvious (though Aloe vera is often described as mostly solitary and every planted out Aloe vera I have ever seen makes pretty decent clumps, but nothing like A. eumassawana) and while I am not sure about the minute pubescence of the flowers, I definitely can see some of it on the young inflorescence (probably hard to see on the uploaded photo, but certainly visible at high zoom on the original)

Like my Aloe vera these very occasionally make seed pods, but the seeds are not viable. I am highly doubtful that any of these plants with the 'multicolored' flowers are A. officinalis. I do not have A.TDG, but the limited amount of description I can find on it suggests it is a larger plant. I have seen leaf sizes up to 70 cm long and 12 cm wide quoted. None of the clumping Aloes that were identified as A. massawana to me have rosettes with leaves that are that big. Those kind of measurements are going towards regular Aloe vera size (which does make me wonder about that size information). More importantly to me the inflorescence of the plant in the one picture I could find that I sort of trust (maintained by a botanist at the King Saud university in Saudi Arabia - linked to in that other thread) shows clear yellow or red flowers (managed to find the original description by Forrsk, which just states 'red'), not the multi-colored flowers that all my plants have, and the inflorescences as a whole is of a distinctly different shape and size.

Thumb of 2018-10-25/mcvansoest/f52b4c
It is what it is!
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Be a superhero and wear a mask
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Hummingbirder
Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator
Oct 24, 2018 10:46 PM CST
I suppose you've got the best confirmation from the inability of your plant to make viable seed.

That paper by Carter et al. is very short and to the point... the way I like them. Smiling

Anyone who described Aloe vera as mostly solitary must be ignorant of the fact that the plant only reproduces by offsetting... not to say there might not be clones which are more reluctant than others.

That last picture shows the flowers on your plant? Yes, I suppose there is some fuzz there. The bracts are looking long, as one would expect for eumassawana. I am going to profess ignorance on Aloe officinalis but it sounds like it's irrelevant at this point anyway. Smiling

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