Also Known As: French Aloe, Fransaalwyn, Garaa
Category: Single Head Tree Aloes
USDA Hardiness Zones: 9b - 11
OverviewAloe pluridens, also known as the French Aloe, is a very attractive, slender tree aloe which bears gracefully backwards-bending leaves in large spiraled rosettes from South Africa. This aloe is well suited to coastal gardens, is usually single-stemmed and tall with specimens in habitat occasionally reaching 15 feet or more.
DescriptionAloe pluridens has large rosettes of gracefully recurved leaves. Its thin, recurved, light-green leaves form an elegant and symmetrical spiral in their growth around the rosette. Below the large (upper) rosette - papery dry leaves persist on the upper half of a woody stem, the slender lower part becoming bare and smooth. It may be single-stemmed or branched and occasionally bears numerous small plant-lets on the otherwise smooth stems. Solitary plants somewhat resemble small palms since they have similar silhouettes, and carry so many leaves and have thin, tall stems that do not hold the old leaves. The leaves are bright yellowish to bright green and are lined with large numbers of white teeth. Leaves are relatively small and delicate for a tree aloe. Younger plants have lighter, almost yellow-green leaves that can appear nearly translucent. It's sap is noted as having the sharp acrid smell of rhubarb. This is a moderately fast slow growing aloe, taking what may be decades to growing large/tall enough to flower, but with time can form extensive, convoluted branching colonies. Lotusland in Santa Barbara, CA has some of the nicest and most spectacular colonies of this plant.
FloweringShowy, branched inflorescences have up to 4 uniform-colored, cone-shaped racemes from each rosette. The flowers emerge from late fall to through winter, are un-curved, and a pink or dull scarlet color. Flowers are very similar to those of Aloe arborescens. Flowers usually dramatically rise about 2 feet above the head of the plant.
Origin / HistoryThis close relative of Aloe arborescens has a natural distribution along a wide area of the coast from the summer rainfall and frost free Eastern Cape to KwaZulu Natal in South Africa, where it often grows with heads of foliage popping out through dense foliage of lower growing shrubs. It was first described in 1824 by English botanist Adrian H. Haworth (1767-1833) from a plant collected by James Bowie (1789-1869) who later introduced it into cultivation in England in the 1820s. Bowie was a plant collector for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He undertook many expeditions and collected many plants, and contributed much to our knowledge of aloes and succulents. The species name means 'many toothed' and is derived from the Latin pluri meaning 'many' and dens meaning 'teeth', referring to the toothed leaves. The common name 'French Aloe' is a bit perplexing though Gilbert W. Reynolds in The Aloes of South Africa notes that this name came from its use in the Traskei region. In South Africa it has also been known by the common names Fransaalwyn and Garaa. It often grows in association with Aloe ferox, A. africana and A. speciosa, and hybrids can occur. Aloe pluridens native climate is moderate, without frost, and hot and humid during summers. They are usually seen growing on deep sandy soil. Aloe pluridens has been granted tree status and its national tree number is 30.1.
Care / CultivationIn its natural thicket environment, the surrounding bushes protect the stems from heat and cold. Needs some semi-shade in really hot areas. Not one of the better aloes of dry deserts. It's important to remember that Aloe pluridens enjoys shelter as it is not a creature of the open plains and barren hillside like many others tree aloes. The old dead leaves will remain on the plant & hang down to protect the stem from heat & cold. But if you prefer a tidier look & live in a mild climate, the leaves can be removed with no problems. Although Aloe pluridens is drought tolerant, it thrives and flowers better if adequate irrigation is provided in the summer months. Grow in a soil that is well draining to help prevent diseases such as rot. Aloe pluridens is known to be less susceptible to snout beetle infestations. It is easily propagated by seed sown in spring-summer, or cuttings or truncheons taken in summer. Some plants form plantlets around the stem; these can be detached, placed in damp sand in a cool, semi-shaded spot until they root. Once rooted they can be potted up and grown on, or planted into the garden. Also easy to grow from cuttings.
Frost TendernessHardy to about 28 F so protect from frost in colder locations.
Use in the GardenAloe pluridens makes a spectacular garden subject. It is well suited to coastal gardens, great along sea bluffs, and is suitable for containers. This is a very attractive and unusual shrubby aloe for the garden or for large containers and cut flower stems can last for up to three weeks in a vase. One of the better tree aloes for shady areas, and tolerates a good deal of moisture even in summers. They are oddly charming with their prehistoric looks and affinity with other, non-succulent plants. They are one of the easier aloes to fit into a general garden. Aloe pluridens has a high landscape value both as a feature plant where it can be planted as a single plant or as an extensive mass plantings to create a focal point or to define a boundary. Massed plantings provided a brilliant splash of color during the dry winter months. Aloe pluridens is a good source of nectar for birds and bees during the dry winter months.
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