The genus Aloe belongs to the lily family, which includes about 350 species from Africa, Madagascar and Arabia. The name Aloe may derive from a word of Eastern origin (probably Arabic), meaning "bitter," or the Greek "als-alos" which means "salt," as it reminds one of the bitter taste similar to that of seawater.
Whatever its etymology, it is certain that it is a plant known since ancient times for its many healing abilities.
The first records were found on a clay tablet found near Baghdad and dated 2,200 BC.
Of the different species of Aloe, the best known are:
Aloe Vera o Barbadensis, Aloe Arborescens Miller, Aloe ferox, Aloe Chinensis.
The Aloe plant grows flowers from spring to autumn depending on the species and varieties, and they are formed on the top of a long simple or branched stem, producing blooms which are umbrella shaped, drooping, or tubular. The flowers are usually colored reddish, orange or yellow.
Aloe lives well in temperate climates. In Italy it thrives outside in the southern areas, while in the north it must be cultivated in apartments or in greenhouses in pots ranging from 8 to 60 cm in size. The ideal temperature for Aloe ranges between 20 and 24 degrees during the day and between 10 and 14 degrees at night. During the winter these temperatures can drop to 3-4 degrees, but never less than 3 degrees.
During spring and summer Aloe should be watered sparingly and care taken not to wet the leaves, so as to prevent water from becoming lodged between them, which could lead them to rot. In autumn and winter watering should be gradually reduced leading to a total suspension throughout winter. In spring watering is gradually resumed.
Aloe is fertilised once every two months, starting in the spring and carried on throughout the summer, by using liquid fertiliser diluted in water to water the plants. In the market there are many types but it is a good idea to read the label that specifies the composition and administer a fertiliser which, as well as having the so-called MACRO-ELEMENTS, has also MICRO-ELEMENTS, all important for a proper and balanced growth.
Aloe vera, known for its numerous therapeutic properties: for healing burns and wounds, as a laxative, tonic and for revitalising the skin. The internal part or gelatin powder is used after drying. The leaves are green and fleshy and also reach 90 cm in length, with a weight of 1,200 kg. The flowers are yellow, very dense and appear in April.
Aloe arborescens Miller, originally from the Cape of Good Hope, has leaves arranged in a rosette of grey-green colour. It can grow up to 2 metres in height, with 60 cm, grey-green leaves, which may be curved or straight, weighing 200 grams, with thorns of a yellow-green colour. It blooms in February and produces red flowers in clusters of tubes that run along the stems.
Originally from South Africa, it can reach 4 feet in height. The length of the leaves can reach one metre and a weight of more than ??? (quanti?) kilograms. They have dark red thorns on both sides and on the underside of the leaf. In March they develop yellow-red flowers.
Hybrid Aloe (not yet classified)
Some people call this type of plant ALOE ARBORESCENS EXTRA but it is a "hybrid." The origin is as mysterious as the name. It can reach 2 metres in height and has dimensions similar to aloe arborescens, with woody stems and leaves that can weigh up to 500 grams. The leaves are about 2 cm thick with gel inside, and about 30-40 cm long with an initial width of 15-20 cm.