Aloe dichotoma var. montana
Aloe dichotoma is a tree, native of South Africa, specifically from the arid areas of Richtersweld, in the border between Namibia and South Africa, where there is the Namibian desert. It’s classified from the IUCN as a “vulnerable” species, being one of the numerous species that are declining because of the climate change. One of the rare forest of Aloe Dichotoma is in Namibia, and it’s called “Quiver trees forest”. Another one is in the Northern part of South Africa.
Aloe Dichotoma, also called in English “Quiver tree”, is a tree, unlike most of the Aloes which are stemless, herbaceous plants. In its natural environment, it can become from 3 to 9 meters tall, and can live until 80 years. The trunk has a smooth, scaled bark. It has a dichotomic arrangement of the branches. Branches are covered of a thin powder, which is important to protect the plant from the intense solar radiation. In the apical part of each branch, there’s a rosette of 10-20 greenish – greyish – blue lanceolate leaves. Inflorescence is a tough raceme of bright yellow flowers, really beautiful, which are an important source of nectar for the birds which live in that ecoregion. Blossoming season occurs in June-July.
Aloe dichotoma needs a hot, dry environment to grow in health. Substrate needs to be well-drained and sandy. The plant needs to be exposed to direct sunlight. It grows really slowly, and it’s actually difficult to keep it outside its natural environment, that’s why it’s so expensive. It’s actually better to keep it outdoors, in a rocky, hot garden, because this plant is sensitive to aphids unless there aren’t a frequent air flow and a full exposition to sunlight. It needs very little water in winter, to resemble the rare winter desert rainfalls.
Aloe dichotoma can be propagated from seeds, planting them in March, April in the austral hemisphere, and in Autumn in our hemisphere. An alternative to seeds is propagation made from truncheons, that have to be removed from the plant and left to dry up for 3 weeks before replanting them. Actually this is a difficult method, and to execute it successfully is actually not common.
Aloe Dichotoma had many popular uses among the indigenous population of the area. Its English name “Quiver Tree” comes from the fact that the local people used the hollow bark of the plant as a Quiver for their arrows, but also as a “natural fridge” for storing food, because of the properties of the wood. Indeed, the fibrous texture of Aloe dichotoma’s wood, naturally refresh the air passing inside it.