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.
Family: ASPHODELACEAE (Aloe Family)
Alternatively under Aloaceae, previously under Liliaceae (in the broad sense).
- 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
- 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.
Flowering Months: May – Jul.
Fragrance: Not fragrant.
- 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.
Thorns: Soft teeth along the leaf margins.
- A capsule with 3 compartments that contain many slightly winged seeds.
- Green ripening to light brown.
- 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.
- Plant as a focal plant.
- Planted 1-2 m apart to form an informal hedge.
- 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.
- 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.
- Not known to host butterfly larva.
Bees: The flowers are a very good source of nectar and pollen for bees.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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) 2017.