Aloe barberae, sometimes also known as bainsii or Giant Tree Aloe, is one of the largest of the branching tree aloes. Originating in South America, this variety was “discovered” by Mary Elizabeth Barber, who sent samples to England. This giant tree aloe can grow to heights as tall as forty feet, especially in cultivated conditions. It makes an amazing architectural tree as long as its general needs are considered. Under correct conditions, it is the perfect feature tree for a large expanse of lawn, especially if you are creating a low-water garden.
Aloe Barbarae as a Feature Tree
Like its smaller cousin, aloe vera, aloe barbarae, or the giant tree aloe, is a succulent. Succulents, of whatever size, have fleshy leaves and stems that retain water. Although the aloe barbarae does not plump up in quite the same way as a Queensland bottle tree or an elephant tree, they are considered to be more or less caudiciform because of the way they store water in their stems. The result is a gnarled, twisty trunk (in older trees) that almost looks like the surreal pen and ink drawings found in older illustrated picture books.
It is a branched tree aloe, which means that the stem separates into a variety of snaking branches that end in tufts that strongly resemble the fleshy, low-growing aloe vera in appearance. However, the resemblance is less marked when the Aloe Barbarae blooms. It puts up a beautiful stalk from the leaf bunches. Pinkish/orange in color, the blooms are attractive to bees and sunbirds.
Giant Tree Aloe is Good Medicine
There are more than 500 different kinds of aloe plants. Like many of them, the stem, bark, roots and leaves of the giant tree aloe are considered to be a good source for medicinal materials.
In 2009, according to an article from PubMed, (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19505552/) a study was made of the antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties of aloe barbarae. The results were promising, indicating that the bark, leaves and roots contained materials that had promise when used to prevent infections, including several types of fungal infections and bacterial infections. It did not, however, seem to be affective against salmonella.
The gel from the leaves seems to have a sort of natural UV blocker, which could be why it works well to sooth burns of all sorts.
While ethnomedicine should never be a substitute for advice from a licensed physician, it is interesting to re-discover the useful potential of traditional folk medicines.
Best Places to Plant Aloe Barbarae
In South Africa, these giant aloe trees tend to grow on well-drained slopes above natural waterways. They do not require a lot of watering, which is probably why they are popular in places such as Southern California or in warm, dry areas of Australia.
They are fond of sandy loam, when it comes to soil, and should not be treated with standard fertilizers. In fact, they should be planted away from areas where soil is being amended for standard garden plants.
Aloe Barbarae grows rapidly, and can quickly go from a modest sized sapling to a tree giant that crowds other plants, displace foundations, or scrape against walls. Plan a generous amount of space around it.
While not as cold resistant and some of the straight-trunk varieties of aloe, aloe barbarae can endure a brief frost with little more than singeing of its leaves.
Good news here. Your aloe barbarae should not need pruning unless you need to control its growth. It will happily grow into beautiful, and interesting shapes without human intervention.
These giant succulents are susceptible to scale. Some home growers have reported good results by using cooking oil spray on outbreaks.
When you want to buy an Aloe Barbarae tree, just give us a call. We have a selection of these beautiful trees, as well as many other feature trees. Like a few of our other trees, Aloe Barbarae is protected, and should not be harvested from the wild. However, as licensed horticulturalists, we can assure you that our trees are both ethically and ecologically grown for your pleasure.
As always, we are happy to answer your questions about any tree purchased from us because we want you to fully enjoy any of our amazing trees.