The University of California, Irvine's Arboretum has evolved and will see many exciting improvements during the coming months. The new role in the Ayala School of Biological Sciences and mission emphasis will be upon encouraging and assisting teaching and research. Although the facility will be closed to unscheduled public visitation, there will be an open house each quarter at which there will be public Arboretum and Marsh Tours, and during which researchers using the Arboretum will showcase their studies and research sites for the public. These events will be well publicized, posted on our website, and will be held during times of peak flowering in various of our exhibits, particularly the South African Bulb Garden and aloe exhibits.

Aloe Gardens

Aloes are extraordinarily diverse in habit, including small, creeping succulents, grass-like plants, shrubs, small trees, and even species that produce bulbs. Aloe ferox, the bitter aloe, is used as the symbol for the UCI Arboretum. This species has a long history of pharmaceutical use, primarily as a laxative. In Africa, it was used to paint children's' fingernails as a means of discouraging thumb sucking. The Arboretum maintains a number of extremely rare Aloe species, including Aloe pillansii, Aloe susannae (from Madagascar), and Aloe dichotoma, the quiver tree. The quiver trees growing now at the Arboretum are about 20 years old. They were grown from a plant that produced a few flowers while declining after being transplanted. Because aloes are self-sterile, the flowers produced by this dying plant were pollinated with pollen obtained from Huntington Botanical Garden (in Africa, sunbirds transfer pollen; in southern California, hummingbirds often seem to be effective pollinators, although not between the Huntington Botanical Garden and the UCI Arboretum). Native people in Africa use Aloe arborescens, a species commonly planted in southern California, as a living corral: individuals are planted in large circles, broken only by a wooden gate used to move livestock in and out of the corral. The large spines on the leaves discourage escape of livestock, or intrusions by predators. Use of a living fence is ingenious, especially in a habitat where there is little wood for building fences.