ALOE VERA

Erect perennial, originating from North Africa and the Mediterranean, with thick, very succulent, dagger shaped 30- 80cm long leaves, encircling a thick, central stem. The oldest and largest leaves are at the base, with leaves in the centre of the rosette formation being younger and smaller. Mature leaves can be 2-2.5cm thick and 6-10cm wide at the base, gradually tapering to a point at the apex. The upper leaf surface is flat or slightly dish-shaped and the lower surface rounded, with both surfaces being smooth to the touch. However, the margins of the leaf are armed with firm, spreading, triangular-shaped teeth 2-4mm long. Leaves on mature plants are a distinctive grey-green, due to the surface being covered by a greyish bloom, although during summer they can be greener and during winter they can take on a bronze tinge. I personally feel the plant colour depends a little on fertility and moisture available to the plant. New young plants, called pups or suckers, develop near the base of the parent plant as it grows to a good size or to maturity, which may take 2-4 years, depending on climate and growing conditions. Leaves of young pups tend to fan sideways and are pale green with white spots. The spots and fan shape disappear as the pups become older.

Aloe Vera Barbadensis
Aloe Vera Barbadensis

Flower stalks develop from the main stem of the plant and stand upright, reaching a height of 60-90cm. They may have 2-3 terminal branches and poker-like blossom heads 5- 8cm long, made up of many pendulous tubular flowers with a green tinge that changes to bright yellow at maturity. Pistil and stamens protrude beyond the end of the petal tube, which is an identifying feature of this species. Another identifying feature of A. vera barbadensis is that when the leaf is cut, the sap has a strong smell.

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