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Products > Aloe tongaensis 'Medusa'
Aloe tongaensis 'Medusa' - Mozambique Tree Aloe
Image of Aloe tongaensis 'Medusa'
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Succulent
Family: Aloeaceae (now Asphodeloideae)
Origin: Mozambique (Africa)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Orange
Bloomtime: Winter
Synonyms: [A.barberae/bainsii Medusa, Aloidendron tongaense]
Height: 8-12 feet
Width: 4-6 feet
Exposure: Full Sun
Summer Dry: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 25-30 F
Aloe tongaensis 'Medusa' - (Mozambique Tree Aloe) - A medium-sized slow growing upright tree aloe to 9 plus feet tall with heavy branching stems bearing thin 18 inch long pale green rubbery leaves that often take on a orange hue during the color months of the year in California gardens. In late fall to early winter (December) a stout flowering stem rises above the foliage 1 to 2 feet before branching with each upright branch bearing compact rounded clusters of pale orange buds that open to a pale salmon color, lighter than the pink color of the typical species and appearing about 1 month earlier. Plant in full sun in a well-drained soil. Irrigate and fertilize in warm months to speed growth - tolerates having water withheld but grows very slowly. Hardy to around 22F. Plants were killed at 20 F during January 2007 cold spell. This plant has long been considered to be the Mozambique form of the tree aloe, Aloe barberae that grows in the summer rainfall eastern regions of southern Africa. Aloe barberae is widely distributed from near East London in Eastern Cape north to Mozambique and East Africa. Using the cultivar name 'Medusa' for this naturally occurring plant is technically incorrect but has become common parlance among aloe enthusiasts. The name was first coined by succulent grower Kevin Coniff. He had received small seedling plants of Aloe barberae (then called A. bainesii) in the 1980's from the late Manny Singer, who had acquired the seed from renowned Kew botanist and succulent plant expert, John Lavranos. Mr. Coniff noted that the plants branched at a younger age and grew quite differently from typical Aloe barberae. When the plant produced pale orange flowers, instead of the typical pink flowers, it was realized that this plant was very different. Mr. Coniff grew many plants from cuttings off his original seedling plants and to distinguish them from typical Aloe barberae he began to call them 'Medusa'. This name was formalized when the late Paul Hutchison started using it to describe this plant at his Tropic World Nursery in Escondido. On a visit to Southern California in 1994 John Lavranos identified Mr. Coniff's plants as the Mozambique form of Aloe barberae and noted that the seed he originally sent to Manny Singer was collected along the coast East of Vila Luisa near the capital city of Maputo in Mozambique. The Huntington Botanic Garden crossed two of Mr. Coniff's plants(HBG 77301 and HBG 77302) and released the resulting seedlings as ISI 2005-8. Aloe barberae Dyer. There is some great information written by John Trager about this plant on the Huntington Garden's ISI webpage for this ISI release. This plant was described in 2010 as the new species, Aloe tongaensis, by Ernst van Jaarsveld in the Journal Aloe and is described in the addenda section of Aloes, The Definative Guide by Susan Carter, John Lavanos, Len Newton and Colin Walker (Kew Publishing, 2011). The specific epithet is in reference to the plant coming from the Tongaland area in the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa. This area was named for the Tonga people who live there who live them but is now known as Maputaland and includes areas of southern Mozambique. In an interesting twist of nomenclature a recent article in the Journal >i>Phytotaxa 76 (1): 714 (2013), titled "A revised generic classification for Aloe (Xanthorrhoeaceae subfam. Asphodeloideae)" proposes that this plant actually be taken out of the genus aloe and given the name Aloidendron tongaense (Van Jaarsv.) Klopper & Gideon F.Sm., comb. nov. Other major name changes proposed in this article include the other tree aloes (Aloe barberae, A. dichotoma, A. eminens, A. pillansii, A. ramosissima and A. tongaensis ) also being placed in the genus Aloidendron and the scrambling aloes (A. ciliaris, A. commixta, A. gracilis, A. juddii, A. striatula and A. tenuior) be put in the genus Aloiampelos and the Aloe plicatilis, the popular Fan Aloe, be renamed Kumara disticha, a name that was used to described it by the German botanist Friedrich Kasimir Medikus in 1786. Our original stock plants of this plant came from cuttings off of a plant growing in the Santa Barbara garden of Mr. Jim Prine. Mr. Pine's plant had grown happily in his garden for at least 10 years until suffering from a week of cold winter temperatures in January 2007. This garden, in one of the coldest locations in Santa Barbara, had several nights that dropped into the low 20's F or possibly the high teens (no thermometer recorded the temperature but it was at least several degrees colder than the 25 recorded at our nursery and the Santa Barbra airport) and while the tips of the branches did not freeze, the base of the plant did. Shortly after the freeze we were able to salvage the plant by taking all of the surviving stems as cuttings. Our thanks go out to Mr. Prine for this plant and to Mr. Kevin Coniff for filling us in on its origins. The main picture taken in 2012 at Terra Sol Nursery in Santa Barbara and the second picture courtesy of Kevin Coniff. 

This information about Aloe tongaensis 'Medusa' displayed is based on research conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.