Most people know the aloe vera as a spiky and thick-leaved succulent that produces yellow, tubular flowers in the summer months, but this plant comes from a long line of aloe species. In order to full understand the aloe vera, it is important to acquaint yourself with other members of its family.
Aloe Vera Family Tree: Defining the Aloe
Aloe vera is often filed under the Liliaceae, or Lily, family, which consists of mainly flowering, bulbous plants. This succulent, however, belongs in a different category: recently, the plant has been given a family all its own, thanks to Dr. Tom Reynolds of the Jodrell Laboratory at Kew Gardens. The Aloaceae family is now the correct classification of the aloe vera (Lawless & Allan, 2000). The aloe vera, as with all aloe species, is also a par
The Royal Horticultural Society Gardeners’ Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers offers a concise definition of the aloe as a “genius of evergreen, rosetted trees, shrubs, perennials and scandent climbers with succulent foliage and tublar to bell-shaped flowers” (qtd. in Lawless & Alla, 2000). Considering there are approximately 350 varieties of aloe in the Aloaceae family, all of which vary greatly in size, shape, and color, this definition is apt for the plant. 132 species of aloe vera can be found in south Africa alone (Lawless & Allan, 2000).
Members of the Aloaceae Family
Although they fall under the same family, many aloe species can be very different from one another not only in shape but also size. Plants of the Aloaceae family often produce blossoms of cream, rose, orange, red, and other autumn hues (Lawless & Allan, 2000), but aloe’s color also varies depending on the species being discussed. Let’s learn about the different types of aloes:
Miniature Aloes: Two types of miniature aloes are the Aloe aristata Aloe brevifolia (Lawless & Allan, 2000).
Small Aloes: Aloe striata is small in size; its pale green leaves sometimes have a pink tint and a coral red lines the edges of its leaves. Pinkish red and orange are the colors of its flowers, and the blossoms resemble a chunk of coral found in the sea (Lawless & Allan, 2000).
Large Aloes: Aloe ferox and Aloe arborescens are two examples of large aloes, the latter referred to as a Tree-Aloe by James Backhouse in his 19th century novel A Narrative of a Visit to Mauritius and South Africa due to its enormous height and tree-like structure. The Aloe arborescens goes by another name in the Afrikaans language: Kokerboom, which means “Quiver Tree.” The aloe is so massive that its branches were used to make quivers (Lawless & Allan, 2000).
Aloe Vera’s Close Relatives
Although aloe vera is no longer considered a member of the Lily family (Liliaceae), the succulent is still related to the lily family as well as to many other plants, including but not limited to:
And just like the health-boosting aloe vera, these relatives of the aloe also have medicinal properties (Lawless & Allan, 2000).
Lawless, J., & Allan, J.(2000). Aloe vera: Natural wonder cure. Great Britain: Woolnough Bookbinding Ltd.