Black Spined Aloe Aloe melanacantha

☠ Toxic to humans
🐾 Toxic to pets
🌸 Blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Easy-care
black-spined aloe


Aloe melanacantha, commonly known as the Gorilla's Paw Aloe, is a distinctive succulent that boasts a unique and striking appearance. It's characterized by its rosette of thick, fleshy leaves which have a striking coloration and texture. Each leaf is adorned with white speckles and pronounced dark spines along the margins and the surface, giving the impression of a gorilla's knobby fingers - a feature from which it gets its common name. The leaves themselves have a green to bluish-green hue that contrasts sharply with the dark, almost black thorns. These thorns are one of the plant's most notable characteristics, providing both an element of drama and a defensive mechanism against herbivores. Toward the base, the leaves may take on a more pronounced curve, further adding to the sculptural quality of the plant. During the blooming season, the Gorilla's Paw Aloe produces flowers that add to its visual interest, but the description is focused on the plant's foliage and distinctive physical features. Its overall appearance is one of rugged beauty, with a strong and resilient nature that is reflected in its sharp spines and tough, drought-resistant leaves.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Family


    • Synonyms

      Gorah Aloe, Black-spined Aloe

    • Common names

      Aloe melanacantha.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      Aloe melanacantha, commonly known as Aloe, is not typically known for being highly toxic to humans. However, like many other Aloe species, it contains aloin in its sap, a compound that can cause gastrointestinal irritation if ingested. The symptoms from ingesting Aloe may include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and possibly red urine due to the presence of anthraquinones. It is important to note that topical application is generally considered safe, but any ingestion of the plant, particularly in larger quantities, should be avoided due to these potential adverse effects.

    • To pets

      Aloe melanacantha, commonly referred to as Aloe, can be toxic to pets if ingested. The toxic compounds, such as saponins and anthraquinones found in Aloe, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, changes in urine color, and, in severe cases, may lead to tremors or rarely, more severe symptoms. It is advisable to keep Aloe away from pets and to consult a veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet has ingested any part of the plant.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Flower color


    • Height

      2 feet (0.61 meters)

    • Spread

      2 feet (0.61 meters)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area



  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Decorative appeal: Aloe melanacantha, also known as Black-Spined Aloe, has distinct, angular, black-tipped spines and a rosette form, providing an attractive display in gardens and homes.
    • Drought resistance: As a succulent, Black-Spined Aloe is well suited to arid environments, making it an excellent choice for water-wise gardening.
    • Low maintenance: This plant requires minimal care once established, only needing occasional watering and very little pruning.
    • Soil stabilization: With its sturdy roots, Aloe melanacantha can help to prevent soil erosion in landscape settings.
    • Adaptability: It can thrive in a variety of soil types as long as they drain well, making it versatile for different landscaping needs.
    • Heat tolerance: Black-Spined Aloe is capable of withstanding high temperatures, suiting it well for hot climates.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    • Anti-inflammatory: Aloe melanacantha may contain compounds that help reduce inflammation.
    • Antibacterial: The sap of the plant has potential antibacterial properties that can prevent the growth of certain bacteria.
    • Wound healing: It may promote wound healing by stimulating cell regeneration and providing a protective barrier.
    • Antioxidant: Components within Aloe melanacantha might act as antioxidants, helping to combat oxidative stress within the body.
    • Skin moisturization: Its gel is often used for its moisturizing effects on the skin.
    • Gastrointestinal benefits: There are claims that the plant may offer benefits for gastrointestinal health, but the evidence may not be conclusive.
    Please note, the effectiveness and safety of Aloe melanacantha for medical use might not be well-documented, and more research could be necessary to substantiate these potential medical properties.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • Aloe melanacantha, also known as Gordonia aloe, can be used as a natural barrier or fence due to its spiny texture and dense growth habit, which can deter animals and unauthorized access to certain areas.
    • This plant can be incorporated into rock gardens or xeriscapes for its aesthetic appeal, adding both a structural element and a point of interest due to its unique appearance.
    • Gordonia aloe's striking form and contrasting colors can enhance desert-themed landscaping, providing a sculptural quality to garden design.
    • It can serve as a natural soil erosion control on slopes and in areas prone to erosion due to its extensive root system that helps hold the soil together.
    • The dried sap of Gordonia aloe can be used in traditional crafts, for example, as a natural adhesive or as an ingredient in paint preparations.
    • The leaves can be used to impart a bitter flavor in some traditional alcoholic beverages, although this is not a common practice.
    • Dried flowers of the plant are sometimes used in potpourris or as a component in decorative dry floral arrangements.
    • Gordonia aloe can act as a natural mulch, where fallen leaves can contribute to the soil's organic content and help retain moisture.
    • Its unique and rare presence can be leveraged in eco-tourism, attracting plant enthusiasts and travelers to gardens and regions where it is grown.
    • The plant has potential for use in educational settings, such as botany classes, to teach about desert plant adaptations and biodiversity.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The Aloe is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    The Aloe is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Healing and Soothing: Like other Aloe species, Aloe melanacantha, commonly known as Black-spined Aloe, symbolizes healing due to its medicinal properties. Its sap has been used traditionally to soothe burns, wounds, and skin irritations.
    • Protection: The sharp spines of the Black-spined Aloe may symbolize protection and defense, as the plant uses these spines to protect itself from herbivores.
    • Resilience and Adaptation: Native to arid regions, the Black-spined Aloe exemplifies resilience and the ability to adapt to harsh environments, making it a symbol of enduring tough circumstances.
    • Beauty and Uniqueness: With its distinct appearance and striking pointy edges, Aloe melanacantha can represent the beauty of uniqueness and standing out from the crowd.

Every 2-3 weeks
10000 - 20000 Lux
Every 2-3 years
Spring-early summer
Not needed
  • water dropWater

    Aloe melanacantha, commonly known as Dwarf Aloe, should be watered deeply but infrequently. Allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again, which typically means watering every two to three weeks depending on the climate and indoor conditions. When you do water, provide enough water so that it runs out of the drainage holes—this might be around 16 ounces for a small pot. Reduce watering during the winter months, as the plant enters a dormant period and uses less water. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so it's crucial to err on the side of underwatering rather than giving too much.

  • sunLight

    For optimal growth, Dwarf Aloe requires bright but indirect sunlight. Position it in a spot that receives plenty of natural light throughout the day without being exposed to harsh midday sun, which can scorch the leaves. An east-facing or north-facing window is ideal, or a south-facing window with some light-diffusing curtains. Artificial grow lights can be used if there is not enough natural sunlight available.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Dwarf Aloe thrives in temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but it can survive temporary dips down to about 50 degrees and as high as 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the plant away from drafts and cold windows in the winter, and avoid exposing it to temperatures below 50 degrees, as this can damage the plant. The ideal temperature range for growth ensures that the Dwarf Aloe is comfortable and stress-free.

  • scissorsPruning

    Pruning Dwarf Aloe is primarily done to remove any damaged or dried-out leaves to maintain the plant's appearance and health. Use clean, sharp shears and cut as close to the base of the leaf as possible without damaging the main stem. Pruning is best done in the spring or early summer when the plant is actively growing, although damaged leaves can be removed as needed throughout the year. Generally, Dwarf Aloe requires minimal pruning.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    The best soil mix for Aloe melanacantha, commonly known as black-spined aloe, is a well-draining cactus or succulent mix with added perlite or pumice to increase drainage. The ideal pH should be between 6.0 to 8.0—but leaning towards slightly alkaline conditions is preferable.

  • plantRepotting

    Black-spined aloe should be repotted every two to three years or when the current pot is clearly too small for its size. It's important to allow the soil to dry out completely between repottings.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Black-spined aloe thrives in dry conditions and does not require high humidity. It prefers indoor household humidity levels, which typically range from 40% to 60%.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Grow in bright, indirect light, and allow soil to dry between waterings.

    • Outdoor

      Needs full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil.

    • Hardiness zone

      9-11 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    Aloe melanacantha, commonly known as Gwarri Aloe, begins its life as a seed, which germinates in well-drained soil with ample sunlight. After germination, the seedling emerges, developing fleshy leaves with characteristic spines and a rosette growth pattern. As the plant matures, it establishes a strong root system and grows larger, conserving water within its succulent leaves to survive in arid environments. This Aloe usually remains solitary but can produce offsets, leading to a clonal colony formation. The adult plant periodically produces a floral spike with tubular, red to yellow flowers, attracting pollinators and leading to the production of seeds. Concluding its life cycle, the Aloe dies after blooming and setting seeds, which then have the potential to germinate and start a new generation.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Spring-early summer

    • The most popular method of propagating Aloe melanacantha, commonly known as the Gorilla's Paw, is through offshoots or pups that grow from the base of the mature plant. These pups can be carefully removed when they have developed their own roots and are a few inches tall. The ideal time to do this is in the spring or early summer, which gives the young plants ample time to establish themselves during the growing season. Once removed, allow the pups' cut surfaces to dry and callus over for a day or two to prevent rotting. Then, plant the pups in well-draining soil, water sparingly at first, and gradually increase to give the young aloes a chance to acclimate and grow strong root systems.