The aloe plant genus comprises over 500 succulent aloe species. As a medicinal plant, Aloe Vera is one of the best-known representatives of these plants. However, there are also poisonous species. Consumption of these species leads to serious symptoms of intoxication. A precise distinction between the species is therefore important in order to be able to differentiate between poisonous and non-poisonous species.

Thick leaves and colorful flowers

With the fleshy leaves, the plant genus of the aloes is adapted to dry locations and tropical climatic conditions. They are native to Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. The different species differ in their different leaf structures and colors. However, the basic appearance of the species of aloes is similar:

  • thick, water-storing leaves
  • Thorns on leaf margin
  • rosette-shaped leaves at the stem or end of the branch

The beautiful flowers offer a color spectrum from red to orange to yellow.

  • Flowers grow on long inflorescences
  • do not grow in the center but in the periphery of the plant
  • bloom in spring and summer
Tip: The aloes are very similar to the agave plant genus. A good distinguishing feature is that the aloes have thorns all over the leaf. Agaves, on the other hand, only have spines on the tip of the leaf.

Toxic or edible?

Aloe Vera is a well-known medicinal plant of this plant genus. Several hundred species belong to the aloes . Some with medicinal properties, but there are also poisonous species of aloe.

African aloe

  • spreading leaves
  • reddish edge spines

Characteristic of this aloe species are its sprawling leaves and candle-like flowers. About 30 leaves form a dense rosette and give the plant its impressive size. The upper side of the leaf is bare. There are few reddish thorns near the leaf tip. The underside is covered with reddish spines. The plant reaches a height of up to four meters. Dense inflorescences form on the upright stem. The flowers appear in the form of cylindrical, tapered racemes in yellow to yellow-orange.

Aloe arborescens

  • Baimoe
  • bare stem with a rosette of leaves at the end

Aloe arborescens is one of the lesser-known types of aloe with medicinal properties. With its shrub-like growth, the plant reaches a height of up to one and a half meters. It has several trunks, at the end of which the leaf rosettes typical of aloes form. The very narrow and toothed leaves form a loose rosette at the end of the bare, woody trunk. An inflorescence with bright red flowers emerges from the top of the stem. At the age of two to three years, side shoots form at the foot of the trunk.

Contrary to the typical climatic conditions of aloe species, this species also withstands a few minus degrees.

Tip: The aloe arborescens is edible and can be used as a medicinal plant.

Aloe aristata

  • stemless
  • Leaves with whitish spines on the edges

The plant develops fleshy, dark grey-green leaves. The 8-15 cm long leaves form a rosette and have numerous whitish, hard spines on the edges. In late spring, the orange flowers develop on a 35 cm long inflorescence. After a few days, the flowers wither again. Older plants form numerous side shoots.

Aloe brevifolia

  • light green leaves
  • red flowers

The light green, 8-12 cm long leaves have sharp spines on the edges. After a few years, the stem of the aloe may tip over. The flowers, sitting on a stem up to 30cm long, are bright red. Side shoots form on the lower leaf axils.

Aloe ferox

  • dull green, spreading leaves
  • brown, hard thorns

In addition to the aloe arborescens, the aloe ferox also has a healing effect.

The simple trunk of the aloe grows up to three meters high. The 80cm long, dull green leaves are spreading, thick fleshed and wrinkled. The top and bottom are covered with horny spines. There are brown and hard thorns on the edges. This aloe species forms flower clusters up to 1.30 m high in a beautiful red.

Tip: The aloe ferox is edible and can be used as a medicinal plant.

Aloe polyphylla

  • spirally arranged leaves

Characteristic of this aloe species are the spirally growing leaves. The ovate-elongated, pointed leaves are in five spiral rows. The leaves are purple in color at the top. This attractive rosette only develops when the plant is older.

Aloe striata

  • coral red flowers
  • trunk with several shoots

This stem-forming species forms up to five shoots. The trunks are studded with persistent dead leaves. The light green leaves appear almost metallic. The flowers appear in summer in a beautiful coral red. Therefore, this type of aloe is also called “coral aloe”. As buds, the flowers are still very inconspicuous and hide their future beauty.

Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis)

  • blue-green leaves with spots
  • soft, red-colored thorns

Aloe barbadensis is better known as aloe vera. The trunk is 35-55 cm high and has elongated, lanceolate leaves. The blue-green leaves have pale green and white spots. The leaf edges are covered with soft, pink or red colored teeth. Yellow or orange-yellow tubular flowers appear on the 60 cm high stem between April and August. Side shoots and runners form close to the surface of the earth.

Tip: The aloe barbadensis is edible and can be used as a medicinal plant.

Variegated aloe

The aloe variegata is a popular dwarf form of the aloe species. The 10-15cm long, lanceolate leaves surround the trunk. At first the leaves are upright. As the plants get older, the leaves curl up. The leaves are easy to recognize by the irregular, white transverse bands or the striking drawings. The first flowers appear when the plant is just 10-15 cm tall. The entire plant does not grow taller than 40 cm. The bright red flowers appear at the beginning of spring. With too many blooms, the stems of this aloe will start tipping over.

Not everything is edible

Aloe Vera is known for its healing properties. It is said to have a skin-caring and regenerating effect. It can help with inflammation and digestive problems. In addition to aloe vera, the representatives of the aloe species aloe arborescens and aloe ferox are also edible. Aloe vera is the most digestible of all types and is therefore also referred to as real aloe.

If you want to make a drink from the aloe plants on your windowsill, you have to be careful. In any case, the aloe should not be eaten raw.

Be careful
when preparing it yourself. The gel-like core of the inside of the leaf, the actual water reservoir of the plant, is edible and unfolds its healing effect.

Care must be taken to ensure correct preparation so that only the edible parts are consumed.

The toxic anthraquinones in the foliage must be removed before consumption. This secretion is located between the green leaf bark and the pith. The bitter-tasting, yellow mass is a kind of latex layer and contains the toxin aloin. After peeling the leaves, you should let this secretion flow out for a few hours.

The edible sap lies between the leaf green and the leaf pith. Before using it for drinks, the gel should be rinsed off carefully with water.

Poisoning despite correct preparation

The poisonous and edible parts of the plants are not far apart. There is a risk that toxic parts of the plant will also be ingested, despite correct preparation. Depending on the location and many other factors, the plants have very fluctuating levels of the toxic ingredient aloin. Due to the very variable aloin content, the limit value is quickly exceeded.

The symptoms of poisoning can be harmless. This leads to diarrhea. More severe symptoms of poisoning are intestinal bleeding, cardiac dysfunction up to kidney failure and liver inflammation.

Aloe vera, aloe ferox and aloe arborcens are edible representatives of the aloe species. These can be distinguished from the poisonous species by the different leaf structures, flower colors and thorns. Even with aloe vera, only certain parts are edible. To prevent poisoning, caution is therefore required during preparation.

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