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The beautiful Krantz Aloe produces its profusion of warmly coloured flower spikes during the drab winter months when not much else is blooming in the garden.

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Aloe arborescens Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaAloe arborescens Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaThe beautiful krantz aloe is a valuable garden asset and possibly the most widely cultivated aloe in the world. It is cherished for its profusion of warmly coloured flower spikes during the drab winter months when not much else is blooming in the garden. From May to July it bears flowers in fiery shades of deep-orange, which is the most common colour, but there are also forms with colours like salmon pink, a deep orange-red, and also a lovely butter-yellow colour. Plant breeders have even developed striking bi-coloured hybrids which are sure to delight.

In South Africa we are proud to call this beauty our very own and it is gracing more and more gardens, much to the delight of humans, birds and other wildlife, providing them will a valuable food source when this is scarce. In the wild the krantz aloe is concentrated mainly in the eastern summer rainfall areas, but it can also be found from the Cape Peninsula and along the eastern coast, through KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces. It occurs in low coastal scrub to high mountain tops, and although it is adaptable to many habitats, favours exposed sunny ridges and rocky outcrops.

When in full bloom the krantz aloe is easy to spot in the wild, but even when not in bloom it still stands out in the landscape with its stately form, up to 2 to 3m tall, and its spreading habit, producing a multi-headed shrub of striking green leaves armed with sharp teeth at their margins, and arranged in attractive rosettes.
 
Because Aloe arborescens hybridises readily with other aloes, the species formerly known as Aloe mutabilis is now regarded as a form of Aloe arborescens. This hybrid is smaller growing than the krantz aloe and is more evident on the high inland plateau of the northern provinces of South Africa, where it grows on cliffs and produces gorgeous red and yellow bi-coloured flower spikes.

Uses:

Aloe arborescens is the only other member of the aloe family that is claimed to be as effective as Aloe Vera for medical uses. The sap of the leaves has many uses and has been used to treat stomach ailments for many centuries, as well as abrasions, burns and skin ailments. The Zulu people use the leaves of this plant as a protection against storms, and in the Transkei it is used for stomach ache and given to chickens to prevent them from getting sick. Extracts from the leaves have been widely researched and have shown significant wound healing, anti-bacterial, anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, hypoglycaemic and also alopoeic activity.

In the Garden:

The krantz aloe is easy to grow, extremely water-wise, and also a 'must-have' for anyone wanting to stock their herb gardens with indigenous healing plants - good reasons to include at least one of these decorative aloes in your garden.

Because it grows into a large and spreading plant the krantz aloe is very useful for larger gardens, and a valuable accent plant with its attractive foliage and decorative form. It can also be grown as an excellent and impenetrable hedging plant. The flowers produce copious amounts of nectar, attracting many birds, especially sunbirds, as well as butterflies, bees and other insects.

Cultivation/Propagation:

The krantz aloe grows quickly in the garden, and is a wonderful low-maintenance and water-wise plant. It is a great coastal plant and does just as well inland, tolerating moderate frost and drought.  It will always look its best in the garden, however, if it is watered judiciously during long dry spells.

All aloes thrive in full sun, and the one thing they are all really fussy about is perfect soil drainage, otherwise they will adapt to most soil types. Adding some compost to the planting hole, along with a generous dressing of bone meal will get your plant off to a good start. Mulching around the roots in autumn with compost or kraal manure will be sufficient to ensure glorious blooms in winter.

The krantz aloe is easily propagated from branch or stem cuttings. Allow the branches to dry for a day, or until the wound has sealed, before planting into well-drained soil or washed river-sand. Do not overwater the cuttings or they may rot. Seed can be sown in spring, taking about 3 to 4 weeks to germinate.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

Aloe rust shows as small, pale yellow spots on leaves which expand and turn brown; orange spore masses may be present on underside of leaf; leaves may drop from plant. Disease emergence favours cool temperatures and high humidity. Although this disease is self-limiting and requires no treatment, it is unsightly and may be treated with a suitable fungicide if necessary.

Anthracnose disease shows initially as small round to oval, dark green water-soaked spots, which later become circular with tan to light brown centres. As the spots mature the centre of the lesion becomes reddish-brown to brown in colour, progressing to form lesions which join together to form big necrotic areas. This fungal disease is favoured by warm, wet weather, and is spread easily during wet weather by water splash. It can be controlled by the application of a suitable fungicide.

Basal stem rot turns the base of the plant reddish brown to black and causes rotting. This is a fatal disease of aloes and its emergence favours cold, damp conditions. Try to save pieces of the plant which are not infected by taking cuttings above the rotted portion.

Bacterial soft rot symptoms show as watery, rotting leaves which are darker in colour; young leaves wilting and collapsing, and bulging leaves due to gas formation inside. This fatal disease can be avoided by not overwatering plants. This bacterium survives in plant debris in the field, and its emergence is favoured by hot, wet weather.

Aphids feed at the bases of the leaves or in the rolled ends of damaged leaves. They secrete sticky, sweet honeydew, which results in sooty mould development. Severe infestation leads to slow growth and stunting. Organically acceptable methods of control include the application of insecticidal soap and preservation of natural enemies.

Adult Snout Beetles feed off of Aloe leaves, their presence can usually be detected by the presence of circular lesions that have a transverse slit in the centre. Snout Beetles lay their eggs at the base of aloe leaves, and after the larvae have hatched they bore into the stem just below the crown which usually results in the death of the plant.

Warning:

Aloe arborescens is the only other member of the aloe family that is claimed to be as effective as Aloe Vera for medical uses, and although these two aloes have a rich history in the realm of natural healing, producing a clear, gelatine-like substance that soothes burns and relieves skin conditions such as psoriasis when used topically, they can be toxic in certain circumstances.

Just below the outer skin of the aloe plant’s leaves is a layer of yellow juice. This juice, also known as the plant’s latex and contains a natural chemical called “aloin.” Aloin is a type of anthraquinone glycoside, which may irritate your skin if you have an allergy to latex. The skin irritation or allergy associated with latex is known as contact dermatitis, which produces a localized rash.

Aloe latex contains powerful laxative properties, and the ingestion of aloe juice or latex may also irritate the intestines when taken orally.If aloe latex is consumed in large quantities it can lead to diarrhoea. Serious bouts of diarrhoea in young children and animals may result in loss of electrolytes and dehydration. If you suspect the ingestion of aloe latex by a young child or animal, it is important to seek medical advice.

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