Aloe eumassawana

Origin Massawa, Eritrea
Published Carter, Gilbert, and Demissew, Kew Bulletin 51:776 (1996)
IPNI 992391-1

Until 1996, this species was thought to be identical to Aloe massawana. Reynolds, who named the latter species, had not seen any populations in the wild. He only had access to original records indicating that the plant could be found near the town of Massawa (modern-day Mitsiwa) in Eritrea and along the eastern coast of Tanzania. He therefore chose the name massawana, but applied it to the Tanzanian specimens. In 1996, Carter et al. proved that the Eritrean specimens are in fact a distinct species ​[1]​, and named it Aloe eumassawana; the epithet alludes to it being truly from Massawa ​[2]​.

Several physical characteristics are now known to distinguish the two species. The inflorescence of Aloe eumassawana is slightly pubescent, while that of Aloe massawana is entirely glabrous. The Eritrean species also tends to offset generously, while the Tanzanian one does not ​[1]​.

In addition to anomalies surrounding its taxonomic origins, Aloe eumassawana has a curious preference for growing around old graveyards near the coast of the Red Sea. In fact, field sightings have been limited to a graveyard near the village of Hirgigo, about 10 miles south of Massawa ​[3]​.

The plant flowers in the summer, with typically single inflorescences. Flowers tend to be of scarlet color, with yellowish tips toward the mouth. Leaves are plump, long, and pale-green.

Unfortunately the selection of a Tanzanian collection as the type of A. massawana by Reynolds means that the epithet must remain attached to the East African plants, however misleading this might be, and that the Red Sea plants need describing as a new species. We have chosen the epithet “eumassawana” — “true masswana” —in an attempt to draw attention to this misleading situation.

S. Carter, M .G. Gilbert, S. Demissew ​[1]​

Physical Characteristics

Inflorescence5 ft. tall
PerianthPale scarlet or orange, 1 in. long
Typical Diameter3 ft.
Typical Height18 in.
Flowering SeasonSummer


  1. [1]
    S. Carter, M. G. Gilbert, and S. Demissew, “The identity of the Massawa Aloe,” Kew Bulletin, vol. 51, no. 4, pp. 775–776, 1996.
  2. [2]
    O. M. Grace, R. R. Klopper, E. Figueiredo, and G. F. Smith, The Aloe Names Book, 1st ed. Pretoria: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 2012.
  3. [3]
    G. Medhanie and D. Maurizio, “Observations on three poorly known aloes from Eritrea: Aloe schoelleri, Aloe steudneri & Aloe eumassawana,” Cactus and Succulent Journal, vol. 78, no. 1, pp. 36–41, 2006.