Wildly Successful in Pacific Grove
My Dad's Banana Tree/Post-Frost

The Tree Aloes of Pacific Grove

Dsc_0027_aloe_at_3x5_1_3Here is a winter image of the aloe in Pacific Grove. I believe that it is Aloe arborescens, which is the species of most of the old aloes in mid-California and the one featured in my book Wildly Successful Plants: Northern Califoria. (You can click on the image to make it bigger.)

(As you can see, I am finally feeling confident enough to put images on my blog, though I took this one when we were in Pacific Grove last November. I plan to have more current images on this blog in the future.)

Aloe arborescens is from South Africa, as are many aloes. Paging through a book about South African aloes in the library, I saw the inspiration for some of the fantastic plants that appear in the illustrations of Victorian children's books. There are tall aloes that are a single huge whorl of leaves topped with a candelabra of flower stems, and there is one that looks like a broad-crowned tree, with one thick trunk and a broad head of branches topped with leafy whorls, each with flower stems. "Arborescens" means treelike, but actually there are aloes more treelike than Aloe arborescens, which makes a massive mound of leaf whorls, but scientific names are not chosen with absolute accuracy in mind.

In South Africa, various aloes, from tiny "grass aloes" to the biggest tree forms, are used in ornamental landscape. Before Europeans arrived, Aloe arborescens was used to make kraals, or corrals, to keep wild animals away from domestic ones. They were planted on mounds, which made the barrier more formidable. The leaves of this aloe have been used medicinally, like those of the North African Aloe vera, to treat skin ailments.

There is a several-mile-long walk along the bottom of Monterey Bay at the north end of Pacific Grove that is studded with these aloes. In May, the aloes are out of bloom, and the ground is covered with pink iceplant. Just as well they don't bloom at the same time as the colors would be rather alarming in combination. The town used to be a resort for Methodists, late in the 19th Century and early in the 20th, I think. Much of the parkland design dates from that period.


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chuck b.

Imo, older specimens of these aloes really benefit from being thoughtfully thinned out and limbed up a little bit. The succulent globe conceals a tough, twisty branching structure that provides strong visual interest when it's revealed in the garden.

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