Aloe barberae (Tree Aloe)
Plant image

Aloe barberae is Africa's largest aloe reaching up to 15 metres in height and 1 metre in stem diameter. The branching is forked or dichotomous and eventually forms a spreading, rounded crown. Its leaves are arranged in a dense rosette and are long, narrow, deeply channelled and curved.

Name & classification

Botanical name:
Aloe barberae

Common names:
Tree Aloe, Barber's Tree Aloe (E)
Boomaalwyn, Mikaalwyn (A)
umGxwala, inDlabendlazi, imPondonndo, inKalane-enkulu (Z)

Aloe bainesii

Plant family:
Asphodelaceae (as-foh-del-AY-see-ee)
- Includes genera Aloe, Asphodelus and Kniphofia

Plant categories:
Trees; Cacti and Succulents

SA tree no:

Name derivation & history:
This plant was first discovered by Mary Elizabeth Barber, who was a plant collector in the former Transkei. She sent specimens of the plant and its flowers to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, where it was named by Dyer (1874) in her honour. Subsequently it was also found in the Tugela River Valley (KwaZulu-Natal) by the well known traveller, explorer and painter Mr. Thomas Baines in 1873. He sent a specimen to Joseph Hooker at Kew, where it was named in his honour. Although known for many years as Aloe bainesii, Aloe barberae was the name first given to this plant, and takes precedence according to the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature.

The genus name Aloe is derived from a Greek word and refers to the dried juice from the leaves.

There are about 350 species of Aloe which are widespread in Africa and the surrounding islands, as well as the Arabian Peninsula.



Leaf habit:

15 metres

8 metres

Plant shape:
The Tree Aloe grows up to 15 metres tall with an erect trunk up to a metre in diameter and branching dichotomously many times. Leaves form into compact rosettes at the apices of the branches forming a spreading, rounded crown.

Leaf description:
Leaves are arranged in dense rosettes. They are long, narrow, deeply channelled and curved. The leaf surface is dull, dark green with a toothed margin.

Flower description:
The inflorescence is simple or divided into three side branches. The racemes are cylindrical and its tubular flowers vary from bright orange to rose pink (green-tipped) and appear during June and July.

Flower colour:
Vary from bright orange to rose pink (green-tipped)

Flowering months:
June and July

Fruit description:
The fruit capsules ripen during late spring and release their seed which is wind dispersed.

Seed description:
Seed which is wind dispersed.


Natural distribution:
Aloe barberae is widely distributed from near East London in Eastern Cape through the former Transkei area, KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland and Mpumalanga and northwards to Mozambique and East Africa.

Its habitat is subtropical coastal forests, kloofs and dry valleys in the summer rainfall eastern regions of southern Africa. These areas are mild, the soil well-drained and rainfall is 1000 to 1500mm per annum and with little or no frost.

Water requirements:
Waterwise, keep dry in winter

Frost tolerance:
Semi-hardy only when mature

Cold tolerance (°C):

Light conditions:
Sun; semi-shade

Other Characteristics

Drought resistant
Suitable for growing in containers
Low maintenance

Edibility & Toxicity

We have no confirmation that any part of this plant is edible
We have no confirmation that any part of this plant is toxic, however we urge caution as this information may be incorrect.


Interaction with physical surroundings:
In their natural habitat the plants are pollinated by sunbirds.
Attracts birds
Attracts insects

Other information

Aloe barberae is easily cultivated from truncheons as well as seed and smaller stem cuttings. It is fairly fast growing, but should be well watered and enough compost provided for optimal growth. It is sensitive to frost and in a frost-prone area should be protected in the first few years of its life. Always provide a well-drained site, on a slope is best. Enough space should be provided for its eventual size. The leaves may be attacked by aphids and scale insects, which are controlled with an oil-based spray.

South African National Biodiversity Institute, South Africa.

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