Aloe tongaensis

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Geoff
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Aloe tongaensis

#1

Post by Geoff »

This for me is a very exciting plant because I obtained it 'accidentally' thinking it was just a small Aloe barberae, and indeed for many years these were thought to be a different form at that species. Then, once biologists realized it was NOT Aloe barberae (flowers were obvious very different) it was given the moniker Aloe Medusae, though I do not know the origin of that name. So for another 6 years I had in my collection an Aloe Medusae. And then someone finally found it in Mozambique and officially described it. Since then it has been found in South Africa as well. So now I had a whole new species of plant, and by this time it was flowering and had grown over my head, including a cutting I made from it.

This is a large, single stemmed by highly branched tree aloe very similar looking to both Aloe barberae and Aloe eminens. However, after seeing hundreds of these, I now can tell them apart from the A barberaes pretty easily even without flowers (still not 100% of the time, though). Aloe barberae is a much more heavy-bodied plant while Aloe tongaensis has thinner, longer, more delicate branches, and leaves never start out has massive as they do in Aloe barberae, despite their nearly identical overall shape and consistency (rubbery and very bendable, moderately to deeply channeled with small, light, marginal teeth). In fact, leaf size and width alone is one of the best indicators that Aloe tongaensis is not just another Aloe barberae. Eventually Aloe barberaes develop into massive trees, something which Aloe tongensis seem reluctant to do (only growing up to maybe 15' tall), and trunk diameter, though pretty thick, pales compared to those of mature Aloe barberaes.

Flowers are the primary distincitve features, growing on short multi branched inflorescences, and topped with short, almost capitate racemes of yellow-orange flowers, all facing up until opening at which time they drop downward (this is nothing like an Aloe barberae inflorescence). Aloe barberae inflorescences are extremely stout, short structures having maybe 2-3 branches at the most and flowers are densely packed, non-drooping and pinkish red. The flowers on Aloe tongaensis also always seem to be reaching for the sky, often far above or at least noticeably above the vegetation (something else one never sees in Aloe barberae inflorescences).

Cultivationally the two are very similar, however, with both being among the most cold sensitive of all the aloes, reluctant to die from freezing, but badly damaged at temps below 28F (Aloe tongaensis seems a bit tougher in this respect). Both love lots of water all year round. Both are also huge aloe mite magnets.
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Stan
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#2

Post by Stan »

These are not great drought tolerant plants. For sure they want water in summer and if they don't get it quickly start to droop,new leaves will be dwarf. And few of those to replace the old ones that fell off.
Its best trait is ..well, looks. Sculptural,not huge, and also very cold tolerant. It doesn't show cold stress every winter like A.barbarea does.
I've seen this as a street tree in San Francisco..so not heat needy. Almost perfect.
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#3

Post by Stan »

Even though Aloe mite isn't a problem in the bay area- mealys love the axils of these plants. Today on nice warm day.
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#4

Post by toditd »

Spotted at a small garden center labeled "Aloe Medusa", with a price to break the budget. (Apologies for the bad cell phone pic.)
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#5

Post by Spination »

That's a really nice looking plant - really like the trunk splitting feature and 2 heads on it. Something of a surprise to me is the comparatively small pot it's in, an indication it was able to be grown to that size very much underpotted.
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#6

Post by toditd »

Actually, you can't tell from the bad photo, but the two branches are further split each into three branches.
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#7

Post by Spination »

OK, thanks... I see that now. Awesome!
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#8

Post by Viegener »

Aloe tongaensis, flower buds already growing. What's amazing is that these are from a cutting I made about 3 months ago.
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#9

Post by Stan »

Today. From near death in 2014...mealys. Now in bloom.
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#10

Post by Viegener »

Most of my tongaensis cuttings are blooming like mad. What's interesting is they are barely rooted. It seems like this is a good year for them all over Southern California.
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#11

Post by Stan »

Also,it says something about the warmth in the bay area this summer that its blooming on the same schedule as in soucal. This plus,the Mango fruit and the Schefflera blooms,I'm seeing somethings I never saw before. Come to think if it- the white E.ammak also flowered and had fruit for the first time this year.
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#12

Post by Azuleja »

That looks really, really nice!
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#13

Post by Stan »

Thanks Azul. I noticed- A.plicatilis has blossom stalks. Early.
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#14

Post by Viegener »

Yes, I'm seeing bloom stalks on A. plicatilis. Here's some from mid-Oct at Annie's Annuals in the Bay Area.
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#15

Post by Stan »

A couple more as the color deepened. As good an excuse as any ::wink::
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#16

Post by Stan »

One more...its been 3 years.
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#17

Post by kitty »

Hello Geoff, I purchased these cuttings from a seller and assumed these were Aloe Barberae but a friend said they may be Tongaesnsis. What do you think?
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Stan
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#18

Post by Stan »

A.tongaensis is my bet. I notice that mine has sprouted many lower branches as the top original branches seem to be slowly penciling with smaller and smaller leaves. Mine gets more shade then it needs- it needs none!..That might mean the lower are adapted to the increasing shade from my Ash tree.
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#19

Post by Melt in the Sun »

Survived three years in the ground now, this plant has probably 12" of trunk showing. It isn't growing much and burns a little each summer. Not a great plant for AZ, as many have suspected.
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#20

Post by Stan »

Mine does not seem much taller now than in 2017..just more shoots low. I guess it's reached pretty much its full height for me in my own garden at 12'. More sun and warm down south,they probably get a good deal taller and heftier. Going with what I got.
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#21

Post by Stan »

Today..very cool here barely 60f and we had a 5 minute thunderstorm of rain.
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#22

Post by favritegirl »

Stan wrote: Thu Mar 17, 2016 12:19 pm Even though Aloe mite isn't a problem in the bay area- mealys love the axils of these plants. Today on nice warm day.
Why do you think it's doesn't pose a problem in the bay area? I am in Southern California and aloe mite is a big problem.
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#23

Post by Stan »

I would only guess that the cooler summers dont stress the Aloes? Winters are 10 f cooler with the occasional frost? So far in over 20 years of Aloe buying and planting I've never seen Aloe mite.
The city of Hayward has been on a big Aloe striata plantings for landscaping so even the city landscaper isn't especially worried.
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Re: Aloe tongaensis

#24

Post by Trying »

Stan wrote: Tue Feb 13, 2024 9:33 am So far in over 20 years of Aloe buying and planting I've never seen Aloe mite.
I'm in Oakland, I've seen 2 cases of aloe mite recently. My next door neighbor had a nasty infestation on their A. nobilis. Haven't seen any sign of mite on our aloes, but I'm keeping my eyes peeled.
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