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ALOE VERA--THE MEDICINE PLANT

Commonly known as the “Medicine Plant”, Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) is one of more than 450 aloe species.  Aloes are native to southern Africa, Arabia, Madagascar and other islands in the Indian Ocean.  The Aloe vera is used extensively for medicinal purposes, but some other aloe species can be toxic.
Succulents, most aloe species grow in a rosette of thick fleshy leaves and make attractive additions to tropical gardens or potted houseplants for a bright window.  The variety of form and leaf color makes them highly collectible.  We often have 5 to 6 species available in our succulent section and many more species are available on-line.

Aloe vera was used medicinally by the ancient Greeks and Romans, and from the Middle Ages to the present.  The translucent gel that oozes from a broken aloe vera leaf is a popular salve for burns, rashes and other skin disorders.  After breaking the leaf and extracting some of the gel, wrap the leaf in clear plastic wrap and keep it in the refrigerator until all of the gel is used.

Aloes prefer bright indirect light to direct morning or late afternoon sun.  Too much mid-day sun can burn the aloe leaves, but a plant whose leaves lie flat rather than growing upward may not have enough light. 
Allow the soil to dry moderately between thorough waterings.  It is better to go too dry than to keep a succulent too wet; however, do not let the plant dry so much that the tips of the leaves shrivel.  It is also important that succulents dry relatively quickly, so make sure that the container has a drainage hole and do not use a container that is too large for the size of the root ball.

Aloes reproduce by suckers, small plants that spring up around the base of the parent plant.  These can be removed and potted separately into small containers.  The Aloe vera can grow to 2 feet by 2 feet in size, with dagger-shaped gray-green leaves that are spotted when young and edged with pale soft spines.  A tall flower stalk will occasionally appear with clustered pendant tubular yellowish flowers.  
Posted: 2/18/2015 by Margot | with 0 comment(s)
Filed under: MargotGunn, TheGreatIndoors
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