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Splendor in the Succulents: The Aloes of Huntington Gardens


Aloe africana (South Africa)

Today, inspired by Alice Joyce’s wonderful Rancho La Puerta post, I’m going to write something that’s not at all seasonal. At least it’s not seasonal where I live. Alice’s post about Mexico cheered me up so much, after two weeks of overcast skies and off-and-on rain.

Mind you, I feel a pall of guilt settling over me when I admit this. Every time I set a clog in the puddling sog of my yard, I think: “Be grateful. We need the water.”

We do. Higher water table means our wells don’t go dry. Bigger snow pack means our rivers don’t go dry. And all of it means that our fire danger is greatly lessened, because the moisture will last longer. Since I had ash from a nearby fire dropping on my yard last summer, and breathed brown air from a huge wildfire futher away for three weeks the year before, that’s something to celebrate.

But there are beautiful things about a dry, hot landscape, and Huntington Gardens can show you a multitude of them.

Every year I visit LA someime around February or March. It’s just when the succulents at Huntington are at their best, and my family indulges me by taking me there.

Oh, I pay occasional tribute to the other parts of the huge Huntington Garden/museum complex. But I’m always drawn back to the succulents. I could spend days among the succulents, just learning.

There are so many, in fact, that I’m just going to concentrate on the aloes for this post.

This Aloe mariothii, from South Africa, acts almost like a palm tree: the living part sits atop a tower of old, dead leaves. This one is several feet high.


I also enjoyed the speckling on the leaves, a reverse of the light-on-dark speckles we usually see in the aloes we keep on our windowsills and porches.


The flowers of this Aloe petricola (from the Transvaal region of South Africa) flame against the deep blue sky behind them.


And who can deny the brilliance of this Aloe petricola setting, among tree aloes whose curves both echo and contrast the smaller aloes below? (I couldn’t get the i.d. on the tree aloes).


Aloe graminicola has a different kind of inflorescence, a much looser shape resembling the heads of the palms and cycads planted around them.


And underneath, Aloe graminicola has these beautiful bicolored pink-and-green leaves.


Aloe suffulta, from Mozambique, has brilliant leaf-markings that remind me of some of the checkered fritillary flowers.


And diminuitive Tanzanian Aloe dorotheae glows like embers on the ground.


Aloe suzannae, from Madagascar, looks quite unlike my former ideas of aloe, with its smooth waving stems, like a kind of succulent seaweed. (I wonder who Dorothy and Suzanna were?)


I always take another look at my personal favorite, the deep-burgundy-leaved Aloe somaliensis, when I leave. It’s near the entrance to the garden.



This is only a tiny sampling of the aloes in Huntington Gardens, which has one of the best collections in the world, and of course that collection must be only a smattering of the aloes you can see in the wild.

For those of you who want to learn more about aloes, I highly recommend  Aloe Garden Wilderness, a blog from South Africa, where many aloes come from. Eurica Teichman and her husband not only raise aloes for seed, they also travel to the aloe’s native habitats to see them there. The posts aren’t frequent, but you can learn so much from the archives.


 Aloe petricola (South Africa)

{ 15 comments… add one }

  • Carolflowerhill February 8, 2010, 5:13 pm

    Beautiful stately attention grabbing creatures! Great photos! It is good to be grateful for any bit of water… these specimens are geniuses in that way. ;>)

  • Nell Jean February 8, 2010, 6:00 pm

    Not only are they beautiful, but the palette of colors you presented are likely going to be the preferred fashion this year in gardens across the continent. Beautiful presentation.

  • Alice Joyce February 9, 2010, 4:10 pm

    I feel the same way about visiting LA and the Huntington sometime round March! As time goes by… the more gardens I visit, the more I appreciate the Huntington’s spectacular Desert Garden.

    Thank you for the link luv … & for stating that which concerns us all: being so very grateful for ALL the rain, even when we tire of being indoors or getting soaked.

    Your beautiful photos are transporting.

  • Pomona Belvedere February 9, 2010, 9:18 pm

    Glad to find others who enjoy my form of winter cheer…thanks for the kind words about the photos. (And it’s true, Nell Jean, the colors are what drew me to do this post. I need warm colors about now.)

  • ryan February 10, 2010, 11:22 pm

    Very nice. I’m starting to appreciate aloes more and more. There seems to be a lot more of them than I realize. I’m also realizing I really need to see the Huntington.

  • Pomona Belvedere February 11, 2010, 11:04 am

    Ryan, you won’t regret it, Huntington is amazing.

  • Edith Hoped February 12, 2010, 11:49 am

    Dear PB, What an utterly fascinating, informative, and beautifully illustrated posting. My knowledge of aloes before reading this was embarrassingly slight and this has given me such an insight into these very strange and exotic plants.

    Thank you so much for visiting my weblog and leaving a comment to which I have replied.

  • Pomona Belvedere February 12, 2010, 2:51 pm

    Edith, honestly my own knowledge of aloes is also pretty slight, but the Huntington display is so amazing you can’t help taking notice and learning something.

    I had a good time at your place, too!

  • Steve February 16, 2010, 11:15 am

    I am a huge Aloe fan, maybe especially of the flowers. But I always used them medicinally as well. That plant is just too cool, in all of its incarnations. I especially was intrigued by the purple. Thanks goodness for such caring enterprises as the Huntingto, eh?

  • lostlandscape(James) February 21, 2010, 10:48 am

    Aloes seem like the perfect plant in a lot of ways: great flowers, great foliage, easy to grow if you have the right climate for them. I have a couple of the species the Huntington does, but it’ll be decades of patience before they look anything like their specimens. I guess that’s the magic of the place: Many of the species might not be one-of-a-kind, but the their matures specimens definitely are.

  • phaladi June 25, 2010, 2:15 am


    your website is very interesting and i would like you to assist me because i have more than 20 000 aloe petricola plants at my farm and would like to enquire if i can make profit from this magnificent plant . please advise me . kind regards

  • phaladi June 25, 2010, 2:21 am

    your website is very interesting . i have 20 000 aloe petricola at my farm can i make profit from this plant please advice me. kind regards

  • Kaz Armour July 1, 2010, 4:02 am

    Dear Pomona,

    I am currently searching for images of Aloe dorotheae on behalf of the ARKive project and would really like to include your here on the ARKive site. Having this image represented on ARKive would greatly assist us in our conservation efforts and hopefully raise awareness of the threats posed to the species.

    ARKive – http://www.arkive.org – is a unique conservation initiative.

    Films, photographs and audio recordings of the world’s animals, plants and fungi are being gathered into one centralised digital library. To date we have created digital multi-media profiles for over 4000 species, digitising and storing more than 30,000 still images and over 5000 videos. These important audio-visual records are being preserved and maintained for the benefit of future generations and are being made available via the ARKive website.

    I can send some documentation that will tell you a lot more about the ARKive project. However, in summary:

    • It is ARKive’s current aim to compile audio-visual records for the 17,000-plus species currently threatened with extinction, according to the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

    • We are looking for media (moving footage, still images, audio) to depict each species’ life history as comprehensively as possible. In order for us to achieve this aim we need help from as wide a variety of donors as possible and would like to be able to add you to our list of contributors.

    • The ARKive website acts as a showcase for image providers, displaying copyright and contact details with every image and links to each media donor’s own web activities.

    See examples of species which have been ARKived at http://www.arkive.org.

    Please let me know if you would like to contribute to ARKive or if you have any queries.

    Thank you in advance for your time, I look forward to hearing back from you.
    Kind regards,

    Kaz Armour

    ARKive Media Researcher

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