Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Hail to Erik the Red (the aloe, that is)

Erik the Red was a Norwegian Viking who established the first Norse settlement in Greenland in 982 and fathered Leif Erikson, reputed to be the first European to have discovered North America. Erik was nicknamed "the Red" because of his hair and beard. But as impressive they might have been, I'm sure they paled in comparison to this Erik the Red:


This is Aloe 'Erik the Red' in full flower. It has shown impressive growth ever since I planted it in March 2014 from a #5 can. In the winter of 2014/15 it had one flower stalk, last year two, and this year three.  

But it's not just the elegant shape of the flower heads that makes passers-by stop. It's the color. The flowers are red. No, RED! It's the reddest aloe by far in our garden.



Aloe 'Erik the Red' is one of the many aloes hybrids created by Leo Thamm at Sunbird Aloes in South Africa. Only a few of them are available in the U.S., including 'Erik the Red', 'Moonglow' and 'Always Red'. For years I've been wishing more Sunbird hybrids would be introduced but apparently the process of importing new plants into the U.S. is studded with bureaucratic hurdles.

The exact parentage of 'Erik the Red' is a closely kept secret. All the Sunbird Aloes web site reveals is this:
Created as a striking feature plant, its release was eagerly awaited by all who have seen it in flower. With tall, blood red inflorescences towering over nearby plants of similar size, this tall stemmed beauty (as tall as a man) is indeed a focal point in any aloe planting. The leaves are green with a prominent spiny edge, a fitting foil for the glowing colour of the flowers. Even the smallest buds are deep red in colour and seeing that they are not covered by leafy bracts they announce the arrival of something special long before the first flowers actually open. [...]
Erik the Red flowers in late winter. It is named after the breeder's eldest son with whom it shares its tall stature.

So it's not named after the Viking explorer after all.

San Marcos Growers says it's "a complex hybrid involving Aloe mawii, which contributed its dark red color, combined with A. petricola, A. marlothii (red form) and A. arborescens."

Whatever it is, it sure is a stunner.

26 comments:

  1. I went to Berkeley Botanic on Sunday and the Aloes were basically done with a few exceptions--yours look to be still in prime bloom. Erik is fabulous !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mine are almost done as well, with the exception of 'Erik the Red'. The flowers just started to open up. It's always the last aloe to bloom in my garden.

      Delete
  2. So where did you buy it, Gerhard? Sue

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I got mine at Village Nursery in Sacramento (special order). But the Ruth Bancroft Garden Nursery now carries it as well.

      Delete
  3. I have Erik the Red that I planted last Oct! Can't wait till it blooms!

    ReplyDelete
  4. The color is stunning in your photos, so I'm sure it's even more impressive in person! I wish I could grow big Aloes in the ground here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a really intense red. Hard to capture in photos. It's a truly beautiful plant.

      Delete
  5. Erik is gorgeous! Tried to bring a partridge aloe back into Canada from the US a few years ago and was told No since aloes (some) are on the CITES list so nurseries have to certify the source of their plants before importation is considered.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. CITES is tricky (but necessary). However, I don't understand what the problem is with man-made hybrids that don't exist in nature. The U.S. apparentely has particularly burdensome regulations when it comes to importing plants.

      Delete
  6. Love it! I wanted to buy one from RBG, but they are sold out now...I procrastinated too long. They were a little pricey, and I wasn't quite ready with the garden at the time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope the RBG will get more 'Erik the Red' in. Maybe in time for the spring sale?

      Mine has remained solitary so far so there are no pups to share, otherwise I would have been happy to pass on the wealth.

      Delete
    2. I asked about it today when I was there volunteering, and Steven the nursery manager said nobody has any at the moment. He'll keep trying to find some to sell, but wasn't hopeful to get any in by the sale time. It's ok, I get 20% off being a member and an active volunteer.

      Delete
    3. It was that way with 'Desert Museum' palo verde a few years ago. Everybody wanted one all of a sudden and production had to catch up.

      Delete
  7. I just picked up Jeff Moore's new book ("Aloes & Agaves in Cultivation") last weekend at a talk he gave at my local botanic garden. He loves his aloes but I don't remember that this one was in the book. It should be!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kris, it's mentioned on p. 172 together with a flower close-up.

      Jeff's book is fantastic, in my opinion. It's on my lengthy list of books to review, together with Jeff's earlier book on succulents.

      Delete
  8. I love the red color. Your plant is beautiful. There are some at the Huntington to the south of the new cafeteria mixed in with Whitelock cycads and they are very striking.

    Here the little clump of 'Ever Red' is blooming. The flowers are orange, not red and the plant is compact. The 'Ever' in the name may be due to how long each stem of flowers blooms--a long time!

    Here 'Fire Ranch' is about to start opening. There are three or four stems so it will be a big show. Camperi and pseudorubroviolacea stems are just emerging. Those two are the spring bloomers here.

    Grevillea 'Superb' has proven so popular with the nectar-feeding warblers, Aloe marlothii has not had all its flowers stripped off. First time that's ever happened.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh, I can't wait to check out 'Erik the Red' at the Huntington. They must look fantastic mixed with Loran Whitelock's cycad collection.

      My 'Fire Ranch' is doing nothing--as always. It looks great, the leaves have taken on a very attractic purplish hue, but no flowers.

      Grevillea 'Superb' is blooming here too. My Grevillea plurijuga ssp. superba is going to bloom for the first time ever!

      Delete
  9. Beautiful, a show stopper! Red is hard to photograph...great photos!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Red is hard to photograph but purple and blue are even worse. Black is the best :-).

      Delete
  10. You know how much I loved that Erik the Red, Gerhard!
    Droolworthy.

    ReplyDelete
  11. 'Erik the Red' is available from several California wholesale growers, including smgrowers.com. I got my first one from the Home Depot in San Rafael. Brokers like Devil Mountain Wholesale also usually have it. As it pups so aggressively, taking cuttings is an easy way to get more within your own garden, of course commercial sales without license is prohibited due to being patented.

    Lots of Aloes still have blooms coming here in Berkeley, with Aloe supondría not even budded up yet, Aloe striata in full bloom, Aloe speciosa, Aloe camperi budded up, Aloe capitata var quartzicola in full bloom, Aloe cameronii, etc, etc. In fact, it's pretty easy to have Aloes in bloom all year, and some, like Aloe 'Johnson's Hybrid' and Aloe x delaetii literally do bloom all year round.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. David, interesting what you said about it being an aggressive pupper. Mine hasn't produced a single offset yet. On Saturday I was over at friend's house, and her 'Erik the Red', which is half the size of mine or even smaller, has five or six pups around the base. I've always assumed they're tissue cultured, hence genetically identical. I wonder what could explain this difference in behavior--not that I'm complaining because I prefer a solitary plant.

      Since so many aloes are still in bloom in Berkeley, it might be worth making a trip to the UC Botanical Garden.

      Delete
  12. I haven't seen Erik local yet or would have snapped him up. 'Fire Ranch' is available, but I don't have space to commit to an iffy bloomer. I love Jeff's book too and find it a great addition to the library.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My 'Fire Ranch' is still not blooming--and never has. I bought it at Smith & Hawken during their closeout sale in 2009. So it's 8 years old now.

      I have Jeff's first book also and it's just as good. Great photos.

      Delete