Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tree aloes

                  Tree aloes 

Few gardens have the space or very strict conditions to grow these extraordinary "tree aloes", but it is worth the space and trouble.  These plants never fail to attract attention to a garden.  The tree aloes are under discussion and it seems that a change of classification might be done in the near future.  It should be available on the www .
 Aloe pilansii  the top of the range of  "must have" for the serious and experienced aloe gardeners.  It is also the most difficult of the tree aloes to grow - if you are able to get one! 
That is me very honoured to stand next to this tree aloe in habitat. Take a look at that habitat.  Near to impossible  to create and even if you live in semi-desert the chemical make-up of the soil plays a role too.
 below:- Aloes of this group known as tree aloes growing in the Vanrhynsdorp nursery.  The nursery is situated in habitat of these aloes which makes it much easier to cultivate them.  Tree aloes from this Vanrhynsdorp nursery has been transported by air at great cost to quite a few gardens public and private world wide.
This photo was taken inside the nursery near the office. In the centre of this aloe group  is a very well grown Aloe ramosissima - it seldom reaches that hight. It is the smallest of this tree aloe group forming a bush growth not single stem tree growth.  It is more difficult than Aloe dichotoma when grown out of habitat.
  On the photo above;  Aloe dichotoma, is on the left.   Aloe dichotoma x Aloe ramosissima hybrid growing to the right is easier to cultivate and grows faster than either one of the two species.
above:  Aloe dichotoma in habitat.  Richtersveld RSA.  That is a natural group of trees.  Trees can be seen on the hill in the background.  The trees grow in rocky areas where the seeds are blown under the rocks and the seedlings are protected against the harsh sun.

Lovely photo taken in the southern part of Namibia after a good rain season.  The Aloe dichotoma servived the difficult first stage and may have enough strength to become a  tree with branches.

Aloe dichotoma has no problem to grow in a public garden in  Windhoek.  The green grass grows in the top soil layer which is watered.  A few centimetres down the ground is dry.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A new book, on Limestone Fynbos, published  by the Duiwenshok Conservancy.
(not a profit organisation!)

Limestone Fynbos is an intriguing flora that occurs on our southern coast, wherever there are limestone hills or cliffs. Most of the plants occur in a broad sweep from Gansbaai to the Gouritz River, including pockets at Cape Point and Macassar. This flora can be divided into three natural units, Agulhas Limestone, De Hope Limestone and Canca Limestone. In December 2007 Veld and Flora published an article on the Agulhas Limestone. The Duiwenhoks Conservancy has added a new aspect to the literature available on this rather unknown flora by publishing a book that describes the Limestone Fynbos of the Vermaaklikheid area, near Heildelberg, which falls in the Canca Limestone unit.

Limestone Fynbos is floristically very different from other vegetation. The reason for this is that these plants thrive on a soil type that would be toxic to most fynbos plants, which are normally found on acidic or neutral soils.  They grow on limestone soils, which are so alkaline that if you squeeze lemon juice on them they will fizz. It is this alkalinity in the soil that is toxic to most fynbos plants. In a remarkable adaptation to a hostile soil environment, Limestone Fynbos has evolved as a unique flora that shares only a few species in common with sandstone fynbos and sand fynbos. As one would expect from a flora that is confined to such specific soils, many plants are endemic, meaning that they grow only on such soils or even at only one locality.

At first glance, this little-known flora appears as dry woody scrub. On closer inspection a fascinating array of intriguing and sometimes tiny flowers emerge. Over the past ten years, the author Louisa Oberholzer began collecting, describing and photographing the plants in the Vermaaklikheid area of the Western Cape ( Near Stillbaai). The Duiwenhoks Conservancy provided financial support for the identification of the species and finally for the publication of the book, Limestone Fynbos of the Vermaaklikheid Area. It presents a photographic record and description of 124 species. Of particular interest are the intriguing Fabaceae, or pea-like flowers and the pungent buchus, which belong to the Rutacea or citrus family.

The aim of the publication is to inform the public and particularly landowners about the value of Limestone Fynbos and the importance controlling alien vegetation, which is a major threat to all the fynbos plant communities.

The book is priced at R130.00 available from the Duiwenhoks Conservancy, ( and also from the author, (