Aloe arborescens dealing with winter.png

Photo: Ivan Latti

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe arborescens dealing with winter

Aloe arborescens branches much, forming broad and tall shrubs or trees of more than 2 m in both dimensions. Arborescens means tree-like in Latin.

Old leaves only persist for a while, close to the stem-tip rosettes on their slender branches. Leaf length varies much, also their curvature; the average length about 55 cm. The many-leaved, whorled rosettes are often presented at oblique angles.

The distribution all along the southern and eastern coasts of South Africa to the hills and mountains of that broad swathe of land extends to the tropical countries of south-eastern Africa as far as Malawi.

Adaptation to different conditions has brought the plant variations in growth habit, leaf colour and shape. Even the leaf margins aren’t always armed with the familiar rows of spines. The about conical racemes bear scarlet flowers, although flower colours include pink, orange and yellow.

Flowers are usually seen from late autumn to midwinter. This joyous reveller was found in June, planted long ago next to a country road through wheat fields near Caledon.

Many gardens could benefit from planting a modest cutting donated by a fortunate neighbour (Coates Palgrave, 2002; Van Wyk and Smith, 2003).

Aloe arborescens crowning a koppie.png

Aloe arborescens crowning a koppie

Nature has the edge! It does not need a cliff edge to settle an argument about that. But tall rock perches do add emphasis and style.

A community of Aloe arborescens plants has been living undisturbed on this rocky outcrop near Genadendal in the Western Cape for many years.

A feather in the cap for the people of Genadendal for retaining their beautiful plants in such condition. Graceful living shared widely is a blessing.

Photo: Thabo Maphisa

Ivan Latti

Aloe arborescens hedge.png

Photo: Ivan Latti

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe arborescens hedge

Aloe arborescens is one of the few aloes that can be planted to grow a substantial hedge. A big sunny garden, public park or boulevard at a town entrance may benefit much from a sight as imposing as this, which promises to look even better in the flowering season.

This picture was taken at the De Hoop Nature Reserve in the southern Cape. This has been planted in the garden by the main buildings. The indigenous plant list of the Reserve contains more than 15 000 species, that apart from the animals, birds and insects found there make a visit very worthwhile.

The first hedges were used to enclose cereal crops on small farms, maybe as long as 6000 years ago during the Neolithic Age. These farms were between 5 and 10 hectares and all the work was done manually (Wikipedia).

Aloe arborescens in a big garden.png

Photo: Thabo Maphisa

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe arborescens in a big garden

When the grey-haired gardener reminisces about the day when his or her Aloe arborescens was planted years ago, melancholy is removed by the many-rosetted abundance.

Warmth conjured in the mind by flowering during the colder months build the bond between the durable plant and its planter in their shared maturity.

Aloe arborescens raceme.png

Photo: Thabo Maphisa

Author: Ivan Latti

Aloe arborescens raceme

The conical shape of the Aloe arborescens raceme is achieved by its short, uppermost buds pointing upwards and briefly remaining positioned close to the stalk. Those in the centre swollen to fuller size gradually sag to point outwards, while the mature ones near the base are angled downwards, their anthers and stigma protruding, adding length.

The initially short pedicels manage the weight of the young flowers well, the older flowers increasingly too heavy for their longer but not much stronger pedicels.

Perianth colouring is pale and grey to greenish in the underdeveloped buds at the tip. The flowers gradually gain flamboyance by acquiring prouder colouring in their garb as they grow. Only the perianth tips lag in the changing of the colours until the moment of opening is near.

Once the pollinators have been beguiled and entertained, there is no longer a need for cosmetics in the spent flower that has accomplished its mission. Withering of A. arborescens flowers happens all too quickly, often accompanied by disappointment at the show passing so soon.

The short and broad, papery bracts below the inflorescence on each peduncle are beige to purplish, little noticed in the presence of flowers. Aloes often produce more floral bracts to subtend the pedicels of the flowers than actual flowers, leaving these seemingly superfluous bits fluttering on the stalk.

Maybe the planning was in place to produce more flowers, but the resources ran out. Some inflorescences may in lean times also fail to open their last few perianths right at the top of the raceme.

© 2019 - 2020 All about Aloes.