Description: Succulent, perennial shrubs, with or without a woody stem.
Leaves fleshy, lanceolate, linear or falcate, cauline or basal, glabrous, margins ciliate, variously toothed.
Scape smooth; inflorescence a raceme or panicle. Flowers zygomorphic. Tepals free or fused into a tube with free lobes, yellow-brown, red or orange, straight to slightly curved, enlarging towards the throat; with several dark, longitudinal veins converging at apex, 3 inner tepals broadest. Stamens unequal; filaments filiform to flattened, 3 inner filaments thinner and longer than 3 outer filaments; anthers linear to oblong, basifixed or dorsifixed. Ovules many; style flattened to filiform; stigma capitate.
Capsule erect, slightly woody, dehiscing from the apex, linear to oblong; seeds many, flattened and/or winged.
Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 330 spp., Afr., Madag., Arabia. Aust.: 4 spp. (naturalized), Qld, N.S.W., S.A.
This genus has sometimes been separated in the family Aloeaceae. **A. vera (L.) Burm. f. is extensively cultivated as a 'medicinal' plant in many parts of the world, including Australia, but it has not become naturalized in NSW. It is sometimes confused with A. officinalis Forssk. (previously known as A. vera var. officinalis (Forssk.) Baker), but they are distinguished by the leaf and flower colour. In A. officinalis, the leaves are light green with numerous paler spots and the perianth orange; in A. vera the leaves are blue-green with few or no spots and the perianth is yellow.
Text by D. C. Godden (1993); edited KL Wilson (July 2015)
Taxa not yet included in identification key
| ||Key to the species|| |
|1||Stems scrambling||Aloe ciliaris|
|2||Perianth less than 3 cm long; pedicels less than 7 mm long; leaves with marginal teeth c. 2 mm long||Aloe vera|
|Perianth more than 3 cm long; pedicels more than 7 mm long; leaves with marginal teeth 3–5 mm long|
Back to 2
|3||Upper surface of leaves with numerous paler spots; perianth red to salmon-orange; capsule less than 15 mm long; usually without a stem||Aloe maculata|
|Upper surface of leaves without paler spots; perianth usually yellow-brown, or some forms red or orange; capsule more than 15 mm long; usually with a branching stem|