Many people know well the Aloe vera plant and how to use it for medicine, cosmetic, food and drink. But have you ever seen the Aloe vera flower? According to APG IV system (2016), Aloe vera together with about 500 Aloe species belong to the order of Asparagales. Asparagales is the largest order of monocots with 14 families and about 36,000 species. The members of this order, for example Asparagus officinalis (asparagus) and Agave americana (century plant or American aloe), are well known as a delicacy and decorative plants. In the past plant taxonomists put the Aloe in the order of Liliales, the same member as Tulipa (tulip) and Lilium (lily), beautiful flowering plants.
APG IV (2016) is the fourth version of a modern, mostly molecular-based system of plant taxonomy for flowering plants (angiosperms) being developed by Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (APG). The conventional plant taxonomy uses the floral formula and diagram as the main parameter to classify the plants.
The morphology of the Aloe vera flower bud is similar to the Asparagus’s flower bud and its flower is similar to the Agave’s flower. Some members of the order Asparagales such as Agave americana are long-lived plants with rare natural phenomena because the plant has a single, massive, and fatal reproductive episode (semelparity). Semelparous plants reproduce flowers only once in their lives and then die. Semelparity also occurs for example in all grain crops and bamboo plants. In animals semelparity can be found, for example in many insects and salmon.
Aloe has a long history in old scriptures or by word of mouth in five continents since more than three thousand years ago. The plant is originally from Africa and it grows well in hot and dry weather. Like other Aloe species, Aloe vera forms mycorrhiza, a symbiosis fungus that penetrates the cells of the roots (arbuscular mycorrhiza). That allows the plant better access to mineral nutrients in their soil. Some people give-up on planting Aloe plants because the soil condition is too wet and the plant rots easily or freezes outside during the winter season when the temperature is around zero degrees Celsius.
The original word of Aloe is believed to be from an old Arabic word “alloeh” which means “shining, bitter substance”, while “vera” in Latin means “true”. Although many people experience personal benefits from using Aloe vera, there is little scientific evidence of the effectiveness and safety of its extracts for either cosmetic or medicinal purposes. The same is true for commercial uses as an ingredient in beverages and some desserts. Aloe vera is still used externally and internally in traditional medicine for multipurpose skin treatment as an emollient that helps to soften and smooth the skin, the same as extracts from Agave plants.
Actually Aloe vera is an exotic and awesome houseplant and is relatively easy to grow with minimum care. It was reported by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) in 1989 that some interior landscape plants including Aloe vera can be used to improve indoor air quality and reduce air pollution significantly.
The photos above are Aloe vera of the variety chinensis (medicinal Aloe). The first photo was taken during the last winter (indoors) when the weather outside was freezing, after propagation using rooting cuttings or separating Aloe pups. The second photo was taken late this summer (outdoors) when the plants were fully grown and producing a lot of pups.
Please visit our website at http://www.burnabyredwigglers.com to learn more about the propagation of your Aloe plants and to optimize their growth using the high quality of worm castings or vermicompost available in your location. Contact us if you need the Aloe vera plant of the variety chinensis for indoor and outdoor planting.
– Bintoro Gunadi