Guide to the Aloes of South Africa by Ben-Erik Van Wyk and Gideon Smith


This is a useful 302-page book published in 1996.  The first part of this book is dedicated to discussion of Aloe-like plants, Medicinal uses of Aloes, Cosmetic uses, Conservation, Cultivation, Pests and diseases and Hybrids. There are many color photos throughout this first part.

This first part of the book is followed by a very nice illustrated glossary describing the different parts of an Aloe plant.  Next is a section on the 10 different groups or types of Aloes based on their growth form, weather they are speckled or not and size.  Some of the groups are:  Tree Aloes, rambling Aloes and Speckled Aloes and Dwarf Aloes.  Each group description has a drawing illustrating the characteristics of each group.

After these two sections the book then starts describing in detail each Aloe group beginning with the Tree Aloes. A brief description of each group is followed by a description of each species in that particular group together with pictures, drawings and distribution maps for each species.   The description of each species includes a discussion of the characteristic of the species, flowering habits, habitat, weather the plant is threatened or endangered and cultivation.  Each species discussion is illustrated with numerous color pictures of the plants, habitats and flowers and fruits.

The book ends with information about further reading and an index to scientific and common names of Aloes.

I can recommend this book from personal experience as a very valuable guide to the Aloes.  It was very useful when trying to identify plants seeing in the field.  It can also be a useful tool in helping the reader learn more about the Aloes in their collections.

Reviewed by Rosario Douglas