Aloes in bloom at the University of California Botanical Garden in Berkeley

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to check up on the aloes at the University of California Botanical Garden in Berkeley (UCBG). While it doesn’t have a particularly large aloe collection—certainly nothing that gets close to the Huntington—it’s a beautiful place to visit at any time of year, but particularly this winter when Berkeley has proven to be a more reliable sunny spot than Davis. After what seemed like weeks of non-stop fog and overcast skies at home, I was so happy to be wandering around in the sun.

The first flower aloe I spotted was right at the entrance, a cat’s tail aloe (Aloe castanea). It was heavily frequented by bees.


Cat’s tail aloe (Aloe castanea)

I spotted an even larger clump behind the gift shop:


Cat’s tail aloe (Aloe castanea)


Cat’s tail aloe (Aloe castanea)

I’ve never seen Aloe castanea in a private garden. I don’t know why. It’s a pretty plant, and its flowers have an uncommon orange/burnt umber hue. According to San Marcos Growers, one of my go-to websites for succulent information, it’s hardy to at least 25°F. Brian Kemble, the curator of the Ruth Bancroft Garden, rates it as hardy to 20°F.

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Cat’s tail aloe (Aloe castanea)


Aloe framesii, another aloe that deserves to be planted more widely


Unidentified hybrid


Unidentified hybrid. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Aloe framesii nearby (see above) were one of the parents.


Tilt-head aloe (Aloe speciosa). I almost bought one in Tucson but it gets quite large, as you can see.


Tilt-head aloe (Aloe speciosa)


Unidentified hybrid. It must be virtually impossible to prevent species from cross-breeding in an outdoor garden. Often, I must admit, I like the hybrids even better than the species!


Unidentified hybrid


Aloe capitata var. quartziticola


Aloe arborescens


Aloe suprafoliata

Many aloes weren’t blooming yet. I’ll make an effort to go back in April to see whether I can catch them in flower then.


Coral aloe (Aloe striata)


Coral aloe (Aloe striata)


Spiral aloe (Aloe polyphylla) growing on a slope with good drainage


Spiral aloe (Aloe polyphylla)


Spiral aloe (Aloe polyphylla)


Spiral aloe (Aloe polyphylla), a perfect specimen


Aloe abyssinica


Aloe aculeata. After seeing it in all its winter glory, I have to have one now!


Aloe aculeata

In December I wrote a post about the reclassification of the genus Aloe. One of the species that was moved to a new genus is the fan aloe. It used to be Aloe plicatilis and is now Kumara plicatilis. In my post I’d been wondering when we would see the new names in botanical gardens, nurseries, etc. The answer is, “now.” The UCBG has already switched out all its plant tags:



Fan aloe (Kumara plicatilis)


Fan aloe (Kumara plicatilis)


Fan aloe (Kumara plicatilis)


Fan aloe (Kumara plicatilis)

The Southern African collection also has nice specimens of cycads (Encephalartos sp.), like this Encephalartos arenarius. With their spiky leaves and primeval look, they form a striking contrast to the softer-leaved plants around them.


Encephalartos arenarius

Here are a few more things that caught my eye on the Southern Africa hill:


Kalanchoe laxiflora from Madagascar


Leucadendron tinctum and Encephalartos horridus


Leucadendron tinctum, or spicy conebush, is drop-dead gorgeous. Why don’t local nurseries carry it? I love the compact growth habit and the flowers that are very large for a leucadendron.


Leucadendron tinctum


Haemanthus albiflos, a bulb in the amaryllis family. Bulbs from Southern Africa are a most interesting group of plants, just waiting to be discovered by mainstream gardeners in mild-winter climates.


Haemanthus albiflos

It was a short visit this time so I didn’t get to explore other areas of the garden. But I couldn’t possibly leave without taking a few photos of the entrance plaza.


Mexican weeping bamboo (Otatea acuminata var. aztecorum) at the entrance


Hairpin banksia (Banksia spinulosa)


Hairpin banksia (Banksia spinulosa)

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Sale plants in front of the gift shop. The selection of succulents was smaller than usual. According to this notice on the UCBG’s Landscape Cacti and Succulents Nursery, which propagates the plants available at the gift shop, the 2014 plant sales were such a success that they literally sold themselves out!


  1. Beautiful plants!!! the fan aloe is stunning...ohh...why do I like so much plants from the South Hemisphere?

    1. Me too! Yet when I was in Australia, I was often disappointed to see people trying to recreate English cottage gardens instead of embracing their own (SPECTALUCAR!) flora.

      I've never been to South(ern) Africa, but I bet it's no different there.

  2. Nice visit. Those polyphyllas are sooooooooooooooooooooo gorgeous.

    I got my Aloe castanea from Annies!

    1. Note to myself: You must withstand the temptation to buy another Aloe polyphylla. Be strong! Be strong!

      Will look for Aloe castanea the text time I'm at Annie's. Hopefully soon. I have a gift card, and it's burning a hole in my pocket :-).

  3. How impressive they've already changed out some of their signage. I was intrigued by the short stubby blooms on the Aloe capitata var. quartziticola. Did it look like there was more to come (they were still developing) or is that all there is?

    1. Loree, I was majorly surprised by the updated signs. I know there's a fair amount of discussion (i.e. arguing) going on behind the scenes about these changes. UCBG clearly has decided to go with the new taxonomy.

      Usually Aloe capitata inflorescences aren't quite THAT stubby but they're always on the squat side. These weren't quite open yet.

  4. Just what we need on a grey winter's day, sunny shots of beautiful plants!

  5. After seeing them in bloom here, I found A. castanea at Annie's too. Love that burnt orange. It is a mystery why some plants make it into the trade and others remain bot. garden only. I wish bot. gardens had seed lists for sale to the public, to include stuff like your Leuc. tinctum.

    1. I'll see what I can find out about Leucadendron tinctum. Will let you know.

  6. Wonderful photos! Now I have a taste for Aloe abyssinica and A. aculeata too. I love that Luecadendron too!

    1. There are so many beautiful aloes. It's a mystery to me why we only see the same 4-5 species in gardens.

  7. Beautiful photos! The Want List is growing. Next Saturday is the Aloe Walk in Jurupa and on Valentine's Day, a sale at their nursery. I really hope the IRS is sending me a refund this year...

    1. Luisa, the Aloe Walk at the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center sounds fantastic! If it was a little closer, I'd go but it's 7+ hours one way--a little too far for a day :-)


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