We have always been impressed by the number of gardens in our town that sport beautifully tall and graceful looking tree aloes – at the time we purchased one for our garden these were called Aloe bainesii – and we planted one in our ‘secret garden’ next to the Natal fig. It grew quickly – they can reach up to 18 or 20m – and tall. What we didn’t realise at the time was how much more the fig tree branches would spread over time, swallowing up the tree aloe and rubbing off its leaves and branches every time a strong wind blows.
The Aloe bainesii became known as Aloe barberae and has now been reclassified as Aloidendron barberae. This tall tree of many names often branches about halfway up, forming an attractive crown. It is magnificent as is, yet becomes really spectacular when it flowers from about April through to June. This tree is growing in the back garden of a home not far from where we live.
These pinky-orange flowers produce copious nectar that attracts sunbirds and a variety of insects. The latter then attract insectivorous birds. Individual flowers grow up to 3,7cm long. When young, the flowers are initially erect but spread horizontally as they mature, which allows the insect pollinators to escape more easily.
We have now planted two sections of the original tree aloe, found on the ground, in another section of the garden where they will receive more sun, will not be decapitated in the wind, and should in time produce an abundance of flowers for us to enjoy.