Garden Aloes

Aloe dichotoma

Also Known As: Aloidendron dichotomum, Aloe dichotoma, Quiver Tree, Kokerboom

Category: Tree Aloes

USDA Hardiness Zones: 9a - 11


The beautiful & distinctive Aloidendron dichotomum (Aloe dichotoma) is one of the largest Aloes and is a well known, common garden feature in South Africa. Aloidendron dichotomum is an extremely tough tree that may reach an age of over 80 years and a height of approximately 7 metres. The tree is found in very dry habitats in Namibia and South Africa and provides food and shelter for many insects, mammals and birds. Elegantly tapered branches are topped by succulent rosettes of aloe leaves, with butter yellow flowers produced in winter.


Aloe dichotoma is probably the best known aloe that form an extremely tough tree with densely rounded crown as a result of the repeatedly forked branches. It is one of the biggest members of the genus Aloe and may reach an age of over 80 years and a height of approximately 7(-9) metres with up to 1 m of diameter at ground level. Being one of the only tree forms in its arid habitat, Aloe dichotoma oftentimes plays host to huge colonial nests of social weaver birds. As the trunk grows it becomes swollen, and develops a rich character by forming fissures, and various color appear which give the appearance of great age and strength. The plant forms a flaring trunk covered in a gold/brown bark that, with maturity, peels off in segments. Bark is smooth with sharp scales, coated in a white powdery substance, not real wood (instead more fibrous, soft tissues used) The branches are smooth & covered with a thin layer of whitish powder to deflect the sun’s rays. The rosettes of Aloe dichotomaat form the tips of the forked branches usually create a dense, rounded crown. Leaves of Aloe dichotoma have a bluish color with teeth along the margins, about 1ft long and narrow. In this species the old dry leaves drop off so that the leafy rosettes only remain at the tips of the branches, leaving the rest of their length clean. Leaves are arranged in a spiralled terminal rosette in old plants, but in juvenile plants they are ranked in vertical rows. Aloe dichotoma is usually found growing singly but in some areas the plants grow in large groups, giving the effect of a forest. Quiver Trees have been known to live for several hundred years.


The bright yellow flowers are borne in winter. Aloe dichotoma have their first flowers when they are about 20 to 30 years old. The flowers are branch panicles up to 30 cm tall from the base of the peduncle to the apex of the terminal of the raceme. They are bright canary yellow, held close to the leaves, at the tips of the branches, and are fairly short and carried erect. The flowers are rather short and rounded in shape and not nearly as showy as many other species of aloes. The young flower buds can be eaten and have a similar appearance and taste to asparagus. The flowers are bright yellow, tubular and about 1in long with orange stamens protruding from the mouth. The copious nectar of its blossoms draws birds and insects as well as baboons that can strip a tree of its flowers in a short time.

Origin / History

The name, 'dichotoma', means 'divided in two' and refers to the way the branches divide, repeatedly forking in two. It occurs in desert and semi-desert rocky areas where it receives rainfall, if at all, in the winter. Aloidendron dichotomum mostly occurs in black rock formations (called 'ysterklip') which absorbs a lot of heat during the hot summer. The English name, Quiver tree, refers to the use of its hollowed branches by the San people to make quivers for their arrows. The tree is said to hold the spirits of people who have died without proper burial. This species is a conspicuous component of the arid parts generally known as Namaqualand and Bushmanland. The roots are made into a tea for treating asthma, cough and TB.

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Care / Cultivation

Aloe dichotoma prefers dry, rocky soil and full sun to part shade, and can be readily grown as a potted specimen. Always use a good quality, loamy sandy soil with plenty of drainage chips at the bottom of containers. It prefers soil of a medium or slightly acidic pH. It grows in semi-desert and desert areas. It seems to grow mostly on hills and their slopes. Young plants will appreciate some shade. One must be careful not to over water older plants in the summer months. Younger plants seem to do just fine with summer water. The growth rate in the ground is amazing. It grows slowly, being able to increase its height by 10-20 cm per year under favorable conditions.

Frost Tenderness

The quiver tree is proof against frost. Hardy to 23 degrees F & it’s said to be a good idea to wrap its trunk below 28 degrees F.

Use in the Garden

In mild climates it can be cultivated outdoors for use in landscaping, preferably planting it in hot and dry rock gardens. It can be grown in large containers too. The rocks anchor the plants which have a spread-root-system.

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The information on this page about Aloe dichotoma has been gathered and summarized from the sources below. Visit these pages to learn more.

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