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PlantFiles: Aloe
Aloe tongaensis

Family: Aloaceae
Genus: Aloe (AL-oh) (Info)
Species: tongaensis
Additional cultivar information: (aka Medusa)

9 members have or want this plant for trade.

View this plant in a garden

Cactus and Succulents

18-24 in. (45-60 cm)
24-36 in. (60-90 cm)
36-48 in. (90-120 cm)
4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)
6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade
Partial to Full Shade

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:
Gold (Yellow-Orange)

Bloom Time:
Late Summer/Early Fall
Mid Fall


Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Provides winter interest
Suitable for growing in containers

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
Unknown - Tell us

Seed Collecting:
Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds
Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed; clean and dry seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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By palmbob
Thumbnail #1 of Aloe tongaensis by palmbob

By palmbob
Thumbnail #2 of Aloe tongaensis by palmbob

By thistlesifter
Thumbnail #3 of Aloe tongaensis by thistlesifter

By thistlesifter
Thumbnail #4 of Aloe tongaensis by thistlesifter

By thistlesifter
Thumbnail #5 of Aloe tongaensis by thistlesifter

By thistlesifter
Thumbnail #6 of Aloe tongaensis by thistlesifter

By thistlesifter
Thumbnail #7 of Aloe tongaensis by thistlesifter

There are a total of 29 photos.
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3 positives
No neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive palmbob On Jan 21, 2008, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

Now that I know what I'm looking for, I dont' think this plant is nearly as rare as I assumed it was.. have seen it for sale at a number of nurseries, often mistakenly identified as aloe barberae or bainsii. But it is a thinner-trunk, more higly branching and MUCH slower growing aloe with leaves that look a lot like those of an anemic Aloe barberae (thin and even more rubbery, if that is possible). I have noticed only a modicum of cold hardiness over Aloe barberae (both were severely damaged in last year's freeze, though Aloe barberae was 'more defoliated' than this one was). Flowers are distinctly different with the inflorescences arising at the top of the plant (as opposed to within the leaves of Aloe barberae) and often on peduncles up to 2' tall (very un-barberae-like) and flowers themselves are pale orange-yellow and almost spherical in sillouhete, not fat and tubular and deep orange-red like Aloe barberae.

It seems logical to assume it is closely related to Aloe barberae as it is similar in leaf shape and general shape (though much smaller)... but from what I understand this is a native (perhaps) of Mozambique, not of South Africa, which sure makes it seem likely to be a different species altogether. Will take someone going to Mozambique and officially describe it perhaps to achieve this species status... so for now, it remains a horticultural mystery.

Positive BayAreaTropics On Dec 10, 2007, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:

I bought it as A.bainsaii..soon realized it wasn't..a few years later thought Aloe 'Hercules',it seems to be Aloe 'medusa'..but, mine and the one posted by Palmbob in his journal do not look like the photos posted by Thistlesifter. Mine does not have curved downwards or criss crossed leaves.They are stiffly upright. The midwinters flowers seem to be identical.The trunk is strikingly striated,accentuated when wet.
Aloe "medusa" seems to do better on regular summer irrigation and feeding also. That's un- barbarae like. A.medusa is also much more cold tolerant than barbarae,taking occasional temps into the 20's in stride.Those lows would melt A.barbarae.
Watch for aphid or mealys that get into the leaf bases. Ants are the tipoff of bad things going on. A strong jet of water is about all you need to cure that.
This is a great tree Aloe in looks,behaviour, and stays in scale with the average urban-suburban, yard.
EDIT: Palmbobs newest photo of 'medusa" isnt anything like mine.Mine has stiff leafs like his 'Hercules' post. I -and not kidding-think i have a third hybrid unnamed. It has the look of Hercules,the height of medusa. Mine does have the thick striated bark of Hercules..the flowers are medusa like,only on shorter petioles.Palmbobs medusa is much more barberae like than mine. And i have barberae too.
EDIT no.2!: I'm almost 100% sure i have Medusa..thanks to palmbob and Kevin Conner. The confusion is the many differing traits individual plants might have..Mine doesnt have the tendency so far,to branch heavily,but the flowers and stocky all Medusa.

Positive thistlesifter On Feb 24, 2006, thistlesifter from Vista, CA wrote:

Edited 4-27-2011. Received word from Keven Coniff. "I wanted you to know that I think Aloe tongaensis and A. 'Medusa" are the same. Even though they are from different locations and there may be some differences in the floral description of A. tongaensis and A. 'Medusa' I think they are close and should be considered the same species."

Edited 4-10-2011. All the flowers here, except for those on my tree seem to be identical to those on the newly described Aloe tongaensis. Other keys are consistent with the description of other keys and images in the CSSJ Jan-Feb 2011.

Kevin Coniff has stated in another forum recently that the real Aloe medusa comes from a different location in Mozambique than that cited in reference to Aloe tongaensis. It is inferred by his statement that it may be his belief that Aloe medusa still goes undescribed.

It may have been a pre-mature assumption that all so-called 'Medusa' specimens in Plant Files are synonymous with tongaensis. The term 'medusa' was not mentioned in the Jan-Feb 2011 CSSA Journal Description and it may be an erroneous conclusion that the true 'Medusa' is in fact one and the same as Aloe tongaensis.

Whatever it is - I much desire the slow bonsaii nature of the tree I posted here first and opened the thread in 2006 as Aloe medusa. I continue to call Aloe medusa which I will leave in place here until I have a better place to post it.

Original Post below
Seed from this plant first became available (in U.S.) as a CSSA release ISI 2005-8. Aloe barberae.

Has anybody sought out the IOS botanist description of this plant. It is was reported that Dr. Hutchison's papers describing the plant and its locale, were turned over to the Huntington at or before his death. I think if one was serious and scientific about knowing anything, rather than publishing speculative rumors they would try to get a copy of the description. . Also, perhaps is a way to get the CSSA journal to publish Dr. Hutchison's description.

The clone in my collection has produced fruit in the dead of winter the last two years. These have to be harvested before fully ripe. I've gotten weak germination from the ripe seeds, but have not gotten a seedling through more that 4 months. These were pollinated with dichotama. It's fruit is much less perishable and hardy that that of dichotama. My flowering dichotama is the pollen donor. Don't know if the "medusa' "selfs" or not.

Huntington Succulent Gardens has several of the Mozmbique form of Bainsii and the description documentation written by IOS Botanist, Paul Hutchison (now disceased), where he had assigned a name to this unique form "aloe medusa".

This a beautiful dwarf form (said to grow a to maximum height of 3M) of the more available - massive and also beautiful Aloe barbarae described by Dyer that grows to heights exceeding 6M.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Carefree, Arizona
Bonsall, California
Glen Avon, California
Hayward, California
Long Beach, California
Reseda, California
Spring Valley, California
Thousand Oaks, California
Vista, California

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