Aloes and South African bulbs at UC Berkeley Botanical Garden

I swung by the UC Botanical Gardens at Berkeley last Saturday to check on the progress of the aloes. In a nutshell: The peak of the bloom is still a few weeks away. While some aloes are flowering nicely already, others are just in the early stages. So many plants seem to be late this year, across the board. 

Tall and majestic. Labeled Aloe sp. so no definitive ID.

The Southern Africa Garden is located on the hill behind the Garden Shop and restrooms. While it features plants from a variety of countries in Southern Africa—the Republic of South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, and Namibia—the focus is on the plants of the Cape Region, including bulbs, succulents, proteas, ericas, restios, and cycads.

The Garden's aloe collection isn't extensive, especially not compared to the Ruth Bancroft Garden just over the hill in Walnut Creek, but it's still a cheery sight to see in the middle of winter.

Aloes above the restrooms (literally)

The shrubby aloe in the front is Aloe kedongensis

The tall aloe in the front is labeled Aloe sp.

Aloe ukambensis

Aloe ukambensis flower

Another one labeled Aloe sp. When you have so many aloes growing close to each other, you get a whole lot of cross-pollination. I assume this was a volunteer seedling.

Aloe castanea, with Aloe speciosa behind it

Aloe speciosa, with an early-stage inflorescence

I'm making an effort to include masked visitors in my photos, so 20 years down the line I'll be able to say, "Remember when...?"

Looking toward the New World Desert, Aloe sp. on the left and Kumara plicatilis on the right

Stately Kumara plicatilis...

...looking out over the Tour Deck, now unused since there are no tours

Aloe suprafoliata and Encephalartos altensteinii. As you can imagine, the slope has great drainage, which is key for many of these plants.

Aloe aculeata, pushing a flower stalk

Aloe mitriformis, formerly known as Aloe distans

Aloe comptonii

Aloe comptonii

Gasteria, babiana, and something mesemb-y all making a life in a crack between two rocks

This time I made more of an effort to photograph the many bulbs growing on the hill. Only a few of the spring-blooming bulbs were in flower, like the Haemanthus albiflos below. But as with aloes, the leaves are the main attraction for me; the flowers are icing on the cake.

Haemanthus albiflos (starts flowering in early winter)

Haemanthus coccineus (flowers in the fall)

Brunsvigia gregaria (flowers in late fall or early winter)

Brunsvigia grandiflora (flowers in late fall or early winter)

Brunsvigia josephinae (flowers in the fall)

Brunsvigia josephinae (flowers in the fall)

Boophane haemanthoides (flowers mid to late summer)

Boophane haemanthoides (flowers mid to late summer)

A few other plants that caught my attention:

Strelitzia juncae, a rare leafless relative of the bird of paradise, and Aloe soutpansbergensis, an aloe species I had never even heard of before

Caputia pyramidata, the kind of succulent I would totally put in my garden as a filler between statement plants. I've never seen it for sale.

And finally a selfie I actually like. It'll be my new social media profile photo:

Coming soon: dudleyas from Alta and Baja California.

© Gerhard Bock, 2021. All rights reserved. No part of the materials available through may be copied, photocopied, reproduced, translated or reduced to any electronic medium or machine-readable form, in whole or in part, without prior written consent of Gerhard Bock. Any other reproduction in any form without the permission of Gerhard Bock is prohibited. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States and international copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Gerhard Bock. If you are reading this post on a website other than, please be advised that that site is using my content without my permission. Any unauthorized use will be reported. 


  1. Great selfie pic Gerhard, looking good!! Looking forward to your further visit now it's Aloe blooming season (despite being a bit late this year).

  2. Great selfie Gerhard. I think you are too critical of yourself. Am in love with the Kumaris. Such a venerable specimen. i have grown Haemanthis in a pot before but wasn't really all that impressed but seeing it in it's proper environment the flowers look quite delicate against the hard rocks. Thanks for the tour. One day will get there.

    1. You bring up an interesting (and important) point: Sometimes a plant you fall in love with somewhere else ends up being a disappointment in your own garden, for whatever reason. It's happened to me more than once.

      Maybe adding more rocks is the answer? Isn't that the answer to everything? (As you can see, I garden in a place without native rocks.)

  3. The Brunsvigia and Boophane varieties have very lush and impressive leafs, especially the Boophane haemanthoides: the picutre shows an intense blue hue. I wish your visit coincided with the bloom time.
    I almost laughed at the photo of Gasteria: finally a plant I also grow, although indoors, at about 1 inch tall its a baby I love a lot.

    1. I'll try to visit again in the late summer when the brunsvigias and boophanes are in bloom.

  4. Such a great garden, we were supposed to visit the Bay Area last summer, which surely would have meant a trip here. Maybe in 2022...

  5. Now you have me thinking that I "need" aloes on my back slope - the drier we get, the more reasonable it seem to give up much of what I've tried to keep alive back there. I need more rocks there too...I have a Haemanthus albiflos in a pot in my lath house, where it bloomed, but I think it might be happier still on the back slope as well.

    1. You definitely need aloes on your back slope--all sizes. Can you imagine the flower display in winter?

      I have a couple of Haemanthus albiflos in the ground, and they flower well.

  6. Love the bulb leaves, flowering now or not! Thanks for another great tour!

    1. I agree completely. Flowers are a nice bonus. In my own garden, I try not to select plants purely for their flowers.


Post a Comment