Garden Aloes

Aloe pillansii

Also Known As: Aloidendron pillansii, Giant Quiver Tree, Bastard Quiver Tree, Kokerboom

Category: Tree Aloes

USDA Hardiness Zones: 9b - 11


Indigenous to southern Africa, Aloidendron pillansii (formerly Aloe pillansii) is a succulent tree that is impressively sculptured by time and the elements of the desert. This is one of the tallest and most prized of all the tree aloes; only Aloidendron barberae gets taller and more massive. As well as being beautiful, Aloe pillansii is also one of the most endangered plants in all of Africa. This succulent tree is noted to grow to 30 to 40 feet in habitat but likely grow to a much smaller size in cultivation.


Aloe pillansii features a robust trunk and erect branches holding large rosettes of arching silver-grey leaves with small pale yellow teeth on its margins. The leaves form a rosette, and are fleshy, greenish-white with jagged edges. Trees reach a stem height of 10m or more and a stem diameter ranging from 1-2m at the base narrowing to about 0.2m at the tip. The bark at the base is a yellowish to brownish golden color and peels away as the plant gets older leaving sharp edges along the lower half of the stem. Stems in old specimens have swollen bottle-shaped trunks that support the tall branches. The stem is covered with a white powdery substance which is particularly visible in younger specimens. The succulent leaves and roots as well as the swollen fibrous stems act as water reservoirs in times of drought and the grey powder on the stems reflects intense heat away from the plant. Aloidendron pillansii develops long stems that grows erect and away from the hot rocky terrain and this in itself helps to keep the leafy crowns cool. This is regarded as one of the largest of South Africa's tree aloes. Aloe pillansii is slow growing and may become a small sized tree in 30 years. Leaf margins have small white teeth of 1-2mm long and 5-8mm apart.


The branched inflorescence of A. pillansii develops from in-between the lowest leaves and hang down below the rosette (unlike those of the other tree aloes). The flowers which appear in mid spring are yellow and slightly swollen in the middle. The racemes are up to 150mm long and carry up to 30 yellow flowers at a time. The spherical capsules that ripen and split open into three parts to release the papery seeds that are dispersed by wind.

Origin / History

Aloe pillansii is named after Neville S. Pillans, a well-known Cape botasnist who first collected Aloe pillansii. The common name comes from a translation of the Afrikaans name Kokerboom which translates as a quiver tree as the hollowed stems were used as a quiver for arrows. A. pillansii is confined to a small region of less than 200 square kilometers in north-western South Africa (the Richtersveld) and southwestern Namibia. There are probably fewer than 5,000 individuals (adult less than 200) of this species alive today, and distinct populations may be composed of only a few individuals. Aloidendron pillansii is arguably the scarcest of all tree aloes in southern Africa. It was previously called Aloe pillansii, however a new genus Aloidendron has been created for the tree aloes. This tree is synonymous with the extreme arid northwest of South Africa and the rugged mountainous parts of southern Namibia. It is regarded as critically endangered. According to the IUCN website they are not actively reproducing and the older plants are dying. Its main threats are poaching and habitat loss due to mining and other human related activities. The Aloe pillansii South African national tree number is 30.

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Care / Cultivation

Aloe pillansii enjoys full sun in a well-drained soil. Irrigate little or not at all during the summer months and protect from frost below 25 F. Good rains on an annual basis are needed in the first 3–5 years after the seeds have germinated. It requires extremely well-drained rocky mineral soil, and very dry conditions. In habitat, it grows on rocky slopes in a desert region which receives its sparse rainfall predominantly in the winter. The roots have to be very well aerated, so to get it there is nothing like using sandy substrates like akadama, pomice or similar . Mix bone meal into the soil to help feed the fleshy roots of plants. In cultivation, Aloe pillansii may be somewhat smaller, and well-adaptable as a home garden specimen.

Frost Tenderness

It can handle temperatures down to 25 F.

Use in the Garden

Large potted giant quiver trees are very rewarding as they make beautiful specimens when positioned to enhance entrances, walls, courtyards, patios etc. It grows well in containers, but pressure from the root ball will easily break the container.

Read about more Aloes that can be used as a focal points in your garden.

Learn More

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

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