What makes an aloe an aloe? Recently, my daughter and I had a chance to experience a guided tour of aloes at the Ruth Bancroft Gardens in Walnut Creek, California. I had a vague idea of an aloe as something with sword-shaped leaves. I was not prepared for the amazing variety of bloomers that we saw--so lucky in the middle of February. So my quest has been to figure out what characteristics unite all of these in the aloe family.
First, all aloes are succulents. This simply means that they store water in leaves or stems, quite a practical solution to the variety of climates they can inhabit.
Second, their leaves form a rosette pattern, a spiral design all around a common point. These rosettes may nestle on the ground (which was my original concept of an aloe). But the rosette may also launch from a stem for more impact.
Although the first two aloe themes are consistent, their flower colors can vary: orange, yellow, pink or red. The photos below make the point.
No matter the color, most people have heard of the "true" aloe, more often known by the name "aloe vera." The succulent leaves contain a healing yellow liquid that can treat wounds.
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