Aloe somaliensis was described in 1899, from plants that were raised at Kew from seeds that had been collected a few years before, probably at Sheikh pass in Somaliland Protectorate (as it was then called). It is now known to occur not only in Somaliland but also in Djibouti, on rocky slopes at altitudes between 700 and 1700 m.
It may be of interest to know that the accompanying pictures were taken late January 2015, likely at roughly the same spot the original seeds came from.
The plants grow singly or in small groups and bear 12-16 leaves, usually narrowly lance-shaped and about 20 cm long.
The inflorescences are 60-80 cm tall.
Polytomus means something like much divided and refers to the fact that the plants are much more branched than in otherwise similar species like S. scottii and S. odora.
In nature the plants form compact shrubs up to about a meter tall; in cultivation they may reach 3 m.
They are locally common in the Sanaag region of northern Somaliland in dry bush land on stony plains and slopes at altitudes between 1000 and 1900 m.
The flowers range in colour from white and yellow to pink, purple and magenta. They usually appear in October and November, but the accompanying pictures were made in late January.
Scobinifolia means “with rasp-like leaves”, referring to the fact that the leaves of this species are rough to the touch.
The plants usually form small groups, with or without short stems. The inflorescence is 60-70 cm tall with yellow, orange or scarlet flowers mainly appearing between September and January.
The species used to occur in vast numbers around Erigavo in northern Somaliland, usually on exposed gypsum plains at an altitude of roughly 1250-1800 meters.
Unfortunately it is now considered endangered, as a result of habitat loss and degradation caused by logging and overgrazing (see first picture).
To be continued.
This little known species has a limited distribution on exposed south-facing limestone slopes and gravelly plains with sparse scrub in the Sanaag region of eastern Somaliland at an altitude of 1350-2000 m.
The plants form compact sturdy shrubs up to 1.5 m high; the branches have 4-6 angled segments 3-4 cm long and 4-7 cm wide, with a continuous horny margin and strong spines to 2.5 cm long.
To be continued.
There are not many plant species that occur from South Africa to the Arabian peninsula, but this is one of them. The photos in this post were taken in the mountainous Shikh area in Somaliland (see first picture). In years gone by I also saw quite a few of these plants in Yemen, but strangely enough I never came across them in South Africa.
The shrubs may be up to 2 m tall. The colour of the calyx is described as green and that of the corolla as dark orange to red, rather different from what we see here. However, as Van Jaarsveld and Koutnik remark in their “Cotyledon and Tylecodon”, the corolla inflation between the calyx lobes is diagnostic, so that should remove any possible doubts about the identification.