Succulent of the Week - Aloe dichotoma

The beautiful and iconic Quiver tree gets its common name from the indigenous practice of using the hollowed out spongy branches to store arrows. Its original name is Choje (San) and the Afrikaans speakers call it Kokerboom (which means... that's right... quivertree.) These trees, in their natural habitat, seem to have this ethereal air of permanence about them. Although some sources on the web suggest that they are threatened by habitat destruction, I think I can say with certainty that the area I visited has seen very little expansion of human land use for a very long time.

I did hear, anecdotally, that mature specimens are dug up and shipped to places like Dubai and Palm Springs for exotic landscaping. The tree aloes are very slow growing, and it is not possible to grow them in captivity to this size on the timescale of a Dubai construction project. There are rumors of people buying whole tracts of land just to deforest them for export, and the survival rate of the trees in shipment is not fantastic. This is just heartbreaking as this landscape is such a slow and old place, it's easy to imagine that a few greedy people could destroy it very quickly and recovery might never happen.

The species name "dichotoma" refers to the usual 2-pronged branching style. Given that some of the examples I photographed seemed to have more than two branches from some joints, it might be the Bastard Quiver Tree (Aloe pillansii), although that doesn't seem quite fair.

Here's a social weaverbird colonial nest in a large Quiver tree:
These beautiful examples were spotted near NousWells in the Northern Cape, not far off the N7 (if you consider "not far" enough space to get completely stuck, lost, separated from the other vans, without cell phone reception, and running out of beer and ice).


Silver Fox said...

Your Quiver tree reminds me of the Joshua tree of California and Nevada, but the latter is a Yucca and not an Aloe!

Julie said...

I too, love the Joshua Tree, and tree aloes as well. This particular tree makes me think of a cross between the Baobop tree and the Joshua Tree ! Africa has the most outstanding succulent specimens...thanks for posting. I agree it is such a worry and a shame for these beautiful trees to leave their natural habitat, and for what????? Damn shame.