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 features plant on its own.

Aloe arborescens can be absolutely spectacular when in full flower, which is one of the reasons it is so popular with gardeners.

Aloe arborescens can be absolutely spectacular when in full flower, which is one of the reasons it is so popular with gardeners.

 

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 

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 to orange, rarely yellow or even white.

The scarlet to orange flowers of Aloe arborescens are borne in large clusters at the end of long racemes.

The scarlet to orange flowers of Aloe arborescens are borne in large clusters at the end of long racemes.

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.
  • 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.
  • The leaves are arranged in spreading rosettes at the end of branches.
  • Old, dead leaves remain on the plant below the rosette for a while.
The succulent leaves Aloe arborescens are long and narrow, edged with conspicuous pale teeth.

The succulent leaves Aloe arborescens are long and narrow, edged with conspicuous pale teeth.

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.

Soil Needs:                         Well drained soils rich with compost.

Planting spacing:

  • Plant as a focal plant.
  • Planted 1-2 m apart to form an informal hedge.

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:        Best in morning sum, afternoon shade.

Roots:                                  The roots are not aggressive.

The relatively rare yellow flowered form of Aloe arborescens is not as common as the scarlet-orange form, but is more readily available now than it was 30 years ago .

The relatively rare yellow flowered form of Aloe arborescens is not as common as the scarlet-orange form, but is more readily available now than it was 30 years ago.

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.

Butterflies:

  • Not known to host butterfly larva.

Bees:       The flowers are a very good source of nectar and pollen for bees.

 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.

Natural Habitat:

  • Savanna-bushveld, thicket and grassland and forest.
  • Occurs on cliffs and rocky slopes, in cool and high rainfall conditions.
Aloes. especially Aloe arborescens are a very important source of food for bees in winter.

Aloes. especially Aloe arborescens are a very important source of food for bees in winter. 

 © Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2017.