Photo of Aloes (Aloe): Spotted Aloe veras misidentified

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Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Feb 9, 2016 1:26 PM CST
There are a number of pictures of Aloe vera which I believe are misidentified. The plant may have spots when it is young (ie. just a few leaves) but those go away once it passes the juvenile phase. Here is a picture showing how the spots go away as plants mature.



Aloe vera is just one of 500+ species of aloe and is quite often misidentified among sale plants. As a group the spotted aloes can be difficult to identify even with a flower, but Aloe vera is not one of them.

I have moved a few images already and am listing the remaining contributors who have submitted spotted plant pictures here.

@needrain
@PiaLouiseSourvi
@Gleni
@piksihk

Unless the plants pictured somehow grew up and lost their spots, I would recommend that the relevant photos be moved to the generic aloe listing until they can be better identified. Please let me know what you think.

Aloes (Aloe)
Name: Donald
Eastland county, Texas (Zone 8a)
Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Raises cows Plant Identifier
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needrain
Feb 9, 2016 1:51 PM CST
The photo can be moved as far as I'm concerned. I actually thought it was uploaded to a generic plant. Mine is a common pass along plant which has probably been in the family close to 50 years or more now. Folks like my grandmother and aunts grow it as a 'medicinal' plant and swear by it for things like minor burns, sunburn, itchy spots, and the like. It grows readily, but not to 3'. Mine bloomed once and the blooms looked like those that Dinu posted under the main entry. I think normally mine doesn't bloom because I tend to restart it every year. When it bloomed it had been protected during the winter for several years. The photo is accurate for mine. It does not lose the speckles you can see in the photo. To me, it's just a commonly grown houseplant that is widely available and commonly grown.
Donald
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Feb 9, 2016 2:14 PM CST
Those blooms from Dinu are not the "true" Aloe vera... should be yellow.

There are a number of Aloe vera hybrids out there. Interestingly Aloe vera is not capable of growing true from seed (only from offsets) maybe due to thousands of years in cultivation. But it can definitely hybridize with other aloes. Long story short, the orange-flowered versions of the plant are probably hybrids.

The heirloom aspect of these plants which you describe looms large in their survival. Wherever there are aloes, there are people who use them medicinally. One thing I like to point out (especially to people who go harvesting aloe leaves randomly in the public garden here, where there are maybe 30 different kinds) is that there are actually a few poisonous aloes, and while you're not likely to find them in cultivation, it's better to stick to the plants you know. Thumbs up
Name: Donald
Eastland county, Texas (Zone 8a)
Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Raises cows Plant Identifier
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needrain
Feb 9, 2016 2:17 PM CST
The other thing I will note is that the family plant was always called 'Aloe vera'. Like it was one word. I've never heard anyone just call it 'Aloe'. Smiling
Donald
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Bromeliad
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Baja_Costero
Feb 9, 2016 2:32 PM CST
In Spanish something similar happens. The common name here for Aloe vera is "sábila" (sometimes "sávila") and that's how people generally refer to the plant. When they discover there are other species of aloe, they tend to call those sábilas as well (until they use the genus name). In casual conversation the word sábila can mean both things, though in its strictest sense it refers only to the species Aloe vera.
Name: Thijs van Soest
Mesa, AZ (Zone 9b)
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mcvansoest
Feb 9, 2016 8:10 PM CST
There is a plant that is very widely grown here in the greater Phoenix area that people call Aloe vera var. chinensis. It is a huge clumper, and retains its spots longer (some times they never completely go away) that has orange flowers with multi-colored slightly bent tips. A lot of the plants in the entry here look like those. In the CoL this is considered a synonym with Aloe vera, so technically they belong in this entry - if people know that that is indeed what they have.
However, the plants do indeed look nothing like what is considered 'true' Aloe vera, which grows bigger, is more dark in coloration and has densely packed racemes of yellow flowers. So to have them all packed together to me would seem confusing...
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Feb 9, 2016 8:26 PM CST
My operating reference for aloe ID is the "Definitive Guide" book (2011). They treat the orange-flowered plant as Aloe officinalis (an Arabian aloe) and present the history of the two plants in good detail.

I have one of the orange-flowered plants (smaller and clumpier than the standard yellow-flowered version) and I'm guessing it's a hybrid. It is definitely not sterile.

Detailed article on the subject here

http://web.archive.org/web/20080725090154/http://www.hunting...

I did not find the original but the archive seems to work.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Feb 9, 2016 9:18 PM (+)]
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Name: Thijs van Soest
Mesa, AZ (Zone 9b)
Adeniums Enjoys or suffers hot summers Cactus and Succulents Container Gardener Hummingbirder Xeriscape
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mcvansoest
Feb 9, 2016 9:34 PM CST
That is a very interesting article! I had originally identified the plant as Aloe massawana, but was told by several people that it was really A. vera var. chinensis and since I do not have the definitive guide (yet), I just figured that given how common it is that A. vera var. chinensis was probably it. Good to learn that I might have gotten it right in the first place after all.

Thanks for the link Baja!
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Bromeliad
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Baja_Costero
Feb 26, 2016 3:00 PM CST
Okay, enough time has passed. I would like to ask @zuzu to weigh in on this.

Here's the situation: there are several aloes displayed under Aloe vera which are not the "true" Aloe vera, ie. they differ in several critical respects from the archetypal yellow-flowered species. Among those differences are floral features which are normally sufficient to define differences in species: the orange-flowered plants do not make ventricose flowers (ie. with a fat underbelly) and they make a flared opening that is not seen in the original. The racemes are shorter and less dense. These features are more consistent with a set of other aloes from the region, including and especially A. officinalis.

The CoL lists these plants as Aloe vera var. chinensis, as do older tags all over the place.

http://www.catalogueoflife.org/annual-checklist/2015/details...

The latest systematic reference on aloes (Aloes: The Definitive Guide, 2011) is unequivocal in placing A. v.c. under officinalis, providing the history and reasons.

You can read the story in the link I posted above but the bottom line is that A.v.c. was apparently popular in China (but has no origins in China) and is noted for medicinal properties comparable to A. vera. Presumably that made it a "true" aloe to somebody. Unfortunately (same article linked above) the medicinal effects are not the same, either.

Now quick story about Aloe officinalis. This plant is quite old; it was named for its medicinal effects in 1775. It is also an Arabian aloe and has also historically been subsumed as a variety of Aloe vera at various points in their collective history. However it is now regarded as its own species and has been found in the wild in Yemen, unlike Aloe vera. The floral differences noted above (and the lack of sterility) make this a much better match for A.v.c. (Interesting side note: there are yellow-flowered versions of officinalis, but those flowers differ from Aloe vera in the same ways the orange ones do. In other words, it's not so much the color, but the form which is distinctive.)

My preference with respect to the spotted aloes listed under Aloe vera in the database would be to move them to the generic Aloe listing, as I would not be comfortable assigning many of them a species designation without more info & flower pictures.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Feb 26, 2016 3:46 PM (+)]
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Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
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zuzu
Feb 26, 2016 3:32 PM CST

Plants Admin

I agree with your comments about Aloe officinalis (not officionalis), and I wouldn't be surprised to see Aloe vera var. chinensis among its synonyms someday, but I also agree that the spotted aloes should be moved to the generic Aloe listing for now.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Bromeliad
Hummingbirder Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier
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Baja_Costero
Feb 26, 2016 3:34 PM CST
Thanks for the correction. Sorry, a little hazy today. I wanted to get this taken care of. Let me correct that spelling error right now.

Thanks for your input. I will propose the images be moved, then.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Feb 26, 2016 3:45 PM (+)]
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