This aloe, one of about 200 in the genus, is one of the most widely distributed geographically, occurring in the wild all along the south-eastern African coast from South Africa to Malawi, through Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and from sea level to mountain tops.
The name Aloe seems to derive from the Greek άλός (alós), 'salt', due to its saline taste, reminiscent of seawater. There are authors who propose an Arabic etymology, alloeh, which would be 'shiny bitter substance' or even Hebrew. The epithet arborescens undoubtedly alludes to its size, 'tree-shaped', as it can reach more than 4 metres. In English it is known as krantz aloe, which in Afrikaans means 'rocky cliff aloe'.
It is common in arid gardens and rock gardens, thanks to its hardiness and stature, with a striking scarlet-orange winter bloom. Flowers are also rich in nectar, attracting insects, butterflies and birds at a time when they are usually scarce.
A. arborescens shares medicinal properties with the popular Aloe vera, and in its native area it is commonly seen at the entrance to houses and gardens as its thorns are believed to ward off evil spirits.