Tamara shares her second entry with us today. She writes:
The photographs today show Aloe arborescens in two native habitats in Mozambique. Thank you to Ton Rulkens (aka tonrulkens@Flickr), a long-time BPotD contributor, who shared these images of Aloe arborescens growing in the wild (image 1 | image 2).
This stunning branching aloe has an extensive range. It is also one of the most widely cultivated aloes in the world. Aloe arborescens is distributed natively throughout the southeastern part of Africa, including South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. Its natural habitats are rocky outcrops and ridges, but this succulent is adapted to many growing conditions and can be found from coastal elevations to mountaintops. Its common names include krantz aloe and candelabra aloe.
Aloe arborescens is a particularly large aloe, reaching a height of 2-3m (arborescens means “tree-forming” in Latin). The tall, sprawling branches are topped with a rosette of spiked, fleshy leaves, and from these rosettes grow showy scarlet racemes that are frequented by bees, butterflies, and sunbirds of southeastern Africa. Like the popular Aloe vera, Aloe arborescens has a variety of traditional and medicinal uses. A 2009 literature review published in Economic Botany found 47 documented uses of krantz aloe; these include healing wounds, improving circulation, improving food as an additive, and healing through antibacterial properties.
One of the most interesting cultural applications of Aloe arborescens is its use in traditional southern African kraals, or livestock enclosures. These are made by densely planting this species to form a corral. Krantz aloe has a few characteristics that make it highly desirable for such a use. Firstly, this aloe grows easily from cuttings, so establishing a new kraal takes little more than placing slightly dried leaf cuttings into the ground. Secondly, pruning of the branches initiates vigorous regrowth, so any leaves that are damaged by livestock are quickly replenished. Finally, the height and density of Aloe arborescens ensures that livestock remain in their pens. Surprisingly, long-abandoned kraals remain in the landscape for decades (or even a century!) because of Aloe arborescens persistence. Living aloe fences have been adapted for modern use as fire breaks in arid parts of the USA, Australia, and the Mediterranean. An informative article (via the web site restoration.me) about constructing such fire breaks compares krantz aloe fences to “a wall of water”; even if you don’t have the time to read the entire article, make sure to take a quick peek at this incredible image of one such wall in full bloom.