Blue Elf is a small but mighty succulent that can withstand the sun’s full attention on the hot desert floor. The smallest of the aloes at Sunnylands, its clumping nature allows it to spread readily to 2 feet. Visitors will first experience Blue Elf when walking to the front of the Center. It’s found growing in four beds below the Sweet Acacia trees that frame the entrance and anchor the entry circle. It is also on the west side of the gardens where it replaced the less successful Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) from the original 2012 landscape plan. It has proven to be a true powerhouse in the gardens.
The leaves of the aloe sometimes display a pink blush. This is the result of a protection mechanism that helps prevent plant cell sun damage. This response is linked to the storage of the pigment rhodoxanthin in the cells of aloes and can be triggered by environmental stressors, such as low water, but it’s usually seen on plants in full sunlight, which is the other environmental trigger. Planting in shade can reduce the blush, but too much shade may also inhibit its blooms.
Blooming begins annually in January and continues in mass through spring, but other times of the year a single aloe may send up a rogue flower stalk catching visitors’ full attention. Its flower stalk will top out at only 18 inches, displaying red-orange tubular flowers that are the delight of hummingbirds. This easy to grow plant has proven to be most popular with the dozens of Costa’s and Anna’s Hummingbirds that inhabit the gardens.
Reported in North Africa in the Canary and Cape Verde Islands.