Will the real quartziticola please stand up?

When I saw Aloe capitata var. quartziticola for the first time, I thought it was the most beautiful aloe I’d ever seen.


Aloe capitata var. quartziticola in the ground at Ruth Bancroft Garden

Both Ruth Bancroft Garden and the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley have mature specimens in their collections, yet finding a plant to buy was challenging. Finally I lucked out: When talking to a docent at the Ruth Bancroft Garden’s spring sale, I bemoaned the fact that this aloe variety was impossible to find. He smiled and said that they had one plant for sale in the nursery. It originated from the UC Botanical Garden but he thought it was very similar to their plants. Needless to say I bought it.


Aloe capitata var. quartziticola I bought at Ruth Bancroft Garden.
It’s lost its purple tinge since then because I’m keeping it in partial shade.

While there is certainly a resemblance, I was and still am not sure if what I bought really is variety quartziticola or the “regular” variety capitata (less purple). I fretted about it for a while, like I sometimes do in matters of such epic importance, and then forgot about it.

Until I happened to browse the online catalog of Arid Lands Greenhouses where I found yet another quartziticola for sale. I couldn’t help myself so now I have two plants of ostensibly the same variety. In spite of their obvious similarities, they do look different enough:



BOTTOM/LEFT: Aloe capitata var. quartziticola from Arid Lands
TOP/RIGHT: Aloe capitata var. quartziticola from Ruth Bancroft Gardens

More photos for comparison:



Aloe capitata var. quartziticola from Arid Lands


Aloe capitata var. quartziticola from Ruth Bancroft Gardens

Are they both var. quartziticola or not? Who knows. I will grow them side by side—and give them more sun to induce the purple coloration—so hopefully I will know the answer eventually.

Am I the only one to obsess over things like this or do you have similar issues that nag at you?


  1. Sometimes you just have to forget about labels and just enjoy the plants!

    Could just be a case of age -- a couple more years and perhaps both will look nearly identical.

    1. You're completely right about enjoying the plants (and I do). But I still want to know what I have--and I actually like taxonomy.

  2. It's possible they are both although only time will tell. Coming from different sources, the (slightly) different growing conditions will have an effect on their appearance. Plus they're both juvenile plants for now. I think it's really worth getting plants from different sources, increases the chances of getting the right one. And you may find that both of them are :)

    1. I think it's likely that both are the correct subspecies, just developing differently. For instance, I have five or six juvenile Yucca rostrata and not two of them look identical.

  3. I just went out to look at mine so I could properly compare it to your photos. It looks very much like your second one, from Arid Lands, and mine is also lacking that gorgeous pinky purple color. I should probably move it so it gets more sun, although I'll wait until our next round of 100+ temps is over after the weekend.

    I do understand your desire to know if that's what you've really got. I have a few unnamed Agaves and I'm dying to know what they really are!

    1. Thanks for checking yours. The plant from Arid Lands closely resembles the specimens I've seen at Ruth Bancroft Gardens and UC Botanical Garden (more so than the other one).

      The quartziticola at Ruth Bancroft is somewhat protected from the afternoon sun but at UC Botanical Garden it's in full sun. I will transition mine to full sun as soon as this heat wave is over. Keeping my fingers crossed that will bring out the lovely purple color.

  4. What a beautiful plant! Thanks for posting pictures of it and listing your source! Maybe I'll click on the Arid Lands link and do some shopping!

  5. I have been looking for this plant and thanks for saying you got one at Arid Lands! I just ordered it and it is 4 years since your posts!

    1. Nancy, so glad you found one! I've ordered several from Arid Lands over the years. They're one of the most reliable sources for Aloe quartziticola.


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