Although not well known by name, Aloe arborescens (Krantz Aloe, Kransaalwyn) is probably the most widely grown of all the Aloes. A succulent shrub that can grow up to 2 metres tall with a 3 metre spread, it is one of the most free flowering of all the Aloe species. It can be used effectively as an informal hedge or as a feature plant on its own.

Aloe arborescens, the Krans Aloe, is a free flowering species that is very showy when in flower.

Family:               ASPHODELACEAE        (Aloe Family)

Alternatively under Aloaceae, previously under Liliaceae (in the broad sense).

Name Derivation:

  • Aloe  – Uncertain origin, may be of Greek, Arabic, Hebrew or Sanskrit origin.
  • arborescens – tree-like, from arbor (Latin) for tree.

Common Names:          Krantz aloe, mountain bush aloe (Z) (Eng), kransaalwyn (Afr), sekgopha (Nso), imbovane (Swa), tshikhopha (Ven), unomaweni (Xho) and umhlabana (Zul).

 SAF Number:                   28.1             Zim. Number:                 17 

The tubular flowers are borne in clusters at the end of a raceme that may be up to 80 cm long.

The greyish-green to blue-green succulent leaves are arranged in spreading rosettes at the end of the branches. The flower inflorescences grow from between the leaves in the rosette.

Form                     A much branched, succulent shrub.

Size:                        1 – 2 m (4) by 1 – 3 m

Flowers:

  • Individual flowers are tubular and up to 4 cm long.
  • Borne in clusters of many flowers at the end of a raceme that may be up to 80 cm long.
  • The racemes are mostly simple but some may be branched 2 or even 3 times.
  • Usually there is one raceme per rosette of leaves, but can have up to 4 on healthy mature plants.
  • Plants in full flower can be very showy.

Colour          Scarlet, orange, yellow or, very rarely, white.

Flowering Months:          May – Jul.

Fragrance:                        Not fragrant.

Foliage:

  • Evergreen.
  • Simple, succulent leaves are long (to 70 cm), narrow (7 – 8 cm), tapering to the apex.
  • The leaves are arranged in spreading rosettes at the end of branches.
  • Leaves are usually a little sickle-shaped
  • Leaf margin is lined with conspicuous pale teeth.
  • Dull greyish-green to blue-green, may turn reddish when exposed to cold or too much sun.
  • Old, dead leaves remain on the plant below the rosette.

Thorns:                             Soft teeth along the leaf margins.

Fruit:

  • A capsule with 3 compartments that contain many slightly winged seeds.
  • Green ripening to light brown.

 Bark:             Bark is light grey or brown.

In the Garden:

  • Add valuable, bright colour to gardens in winter when not much else is flowering.
  • Plants are attractive even when not in flower, so a good focal plant in a large rockery.
  • Often used as a very showy, informal hedge.
  • Can be used close to walls and paving as the roots are not aggressive.
  • An essential plant in any ‘wildlife garden’, attracting a variety of birds, bees and other insects.
  • Fast growing and plants will start flowering while still quite young.

Aloe arborescens used to visually break an ugly palisade fence.

Soil Needs:                Well drained soils rich with compost.

Care:

  • A low maintenance plant.
  • Feed with organic fertilizer and mulch with compost.
  • Protect young plants against the cold in winter.

Cold Hardiness:                Hardy.

Water Requirements:          Drought hardy, but likes regular water, particularly during summer.

Light Requirements:        Full sun or partial shade.

Roots:                                  The roots are not aggressive.

This Aloe, when in full flower, is certainly a show stopper.

Aloe arborescens is a very good source of nectar and pollen for bees.

Birds:

  • Sunbirds and other birds will visit the flowers for the nectar.
  • Insect-eating birds are attracted to the insects that hide in the dried leaves.
  • Flowers are eaten by some birds.

Insects and Butterflies:

  • Very popular with bees as a source for pollen and nectar.

Medicinal:

  • A pulp made from leaves used to treat burns and wounds, effective against X-ray burns.

Poisonous:                       Not poisonous.

Notes of interest:

  • Aloe arborescens is often used in rural areas as a hedge to protect crops and stock.

Natural Distribution:

  • Found in the WC, EC, KZN, Swa, M, L and scattered distribution in Zim and Moz.
  • North of southern Africa its range extends into Malawi.

The beautiful yellow flowered form was very rare just a few years ago, but is now more available from nurseries.

Natural Habitat:

  • Savanna-bushveld, thicket and grassland and forest.
  • Occurs on cliffs and rocky slopes, in cool and high rainfall conditions.

© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2012 & 2018.