Say aloe to some of Babanango’s rarest species

Babanango’s Game Reserve’s rolling hills and plunging valleys are home to some amazing endemic and endangered species, but when it comes to show-stopping rarities, it doesn’t get much better than the only known viable populations of two of South Africa’s most treasured aloes.

The two species are Aloe gerstneri and Aloe vanrooyenii and both can be found in small but healthy numbers on our reserve – and virtually nowhere else! Aloe gerstneri is listed as vulnerable and only occurs in seven known locations in a 110km2 area of northern KwaZulu-Natal which includes most of Babanango Game Reserve.

During the 1960s and 1970s, this aloe was used extensively for ornamental purposes which lead to a dramatic decline in wild populations. However, over the last decade protection of Aloe gerstneri has led to a stabilisation of the remaining free-ranging plants. Its range is severely restricted to the Babanango region, so it’s entirely likely that the rocky outcrops, grassy slopes and riverbanks of Babanango Game Reserve will be the last remaining home of this wonderful species.

Aloe vanrooyenii is a recently described species of maculate aloe that flowers between October and November, making it the only early summer flowering species from KwaZulu-Natal. It is also found here and is considered critically endangered.

We have our fingers crossed that researchers will find specimens of the critically endangered Aloe nicholsii on the reserve, which would be understandable as its natural habitat of rocky grassland in the northern Zululand sourveld region fits Babanango perfectly, and its discovery here on the reserve would undoubtedly bolster our conservation efforts.