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Aloe, the plant with a thousand qualities
The Aloe genus includes dozens of succulent plants, native to southern Africa, in the xanthorraceae family; not to be confused with the so-called American aloe, the agave, which has more coriaceous leaves, and is generally much larger.
The aloe produces a dense rosette of long lance-shaped leaves, fleshy, sharp, sometimes with a margin provided with short pointed thorns; there are varieties of light green, others dark green, others covered by a thin pruinose layer, which makes them bluish. Generally the leaves develop on a squat trunk, new leaves are born from the center of the rosette, while the outer leaves dry and fall, making the trunk visible; there are also species that produce branched stems, which carry the rosettes of leaves at the apexes.
In summer, from the center of the thick rosette rises a thin stem, sometimes branched, which bears a striking inflorescence of red, orange or dark yellow tubular flowers, rarely pink.
Aloe is not a plant of difficult cultivation, and is present in the wild on all the coasts of the Mediterranean, where it produces large bushes of fleshy leaves.
In the garden it is possible to cultivate it only in the areas of Italy with dry and mild winters; the plant can withstand brief frosts, but only if it is grown in completely dry soil; so if we live in Milan and we want to cultivate our aloe in the garden it will be necessary to prevent it from getting wet in winter, and the best way to do this is to protect it from cold and water, using non-woven fabric, or cultivate it in a pot, and move it to a sheltered place from the cold to the arrival of autumn.
The soil for the aloe must be very well drained, even stony; generally a compost for succulent plants is used.
The plant should be placed in partial shade, in a place where it receives the sun for at least 3-4 hours every day, possibly in summer during the less hot hours of the day.
Watering will be regular from April to September, to be provided only when the soil is well dry; during the cold months we avoid watering, or only sporadically watering the specimens grown in the apartment.
As for the other succulent plants the usual rule applies: the more the climate is cold and hand water the plant must receive, and vice versa.
The aloes grown in pots find their place in small containers, because the root system is reduced; to prevent the vases from toppling over due to the heavy weight of the foliage, it is used to fill the vase with sand or small pebbles, for at least 3-5 cm on the bottom, so as to make it heavier.
Aloe has been used for millennia by man for its healing properties; surely the most used part has always been the mucilage of which the leaves are made: this part has a strong refreshing, antioxidant, moisturizing and anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial power; in ancient times the aloe leaves were applied, after being broken, on wounds, burns, burns.
These virtues of aloe mucilage have been recognized by many scientific studies, and today with aloe many medicinal and cosmetic products are produced, which exploit their emollient properties.
The sap contained in the film that surrounds the leaves has detoxifying properties, and in ancient times with aloe, decoctions and herbal teas were prepared, also for internal use.
Well known by all, it is the home remedy based on aloe, honey and alcohol, which has a strong purifying power on the body.
With aloe, however, ointments, creams and detergents are also prepared, which take advantage of the soothing and calming power of the pulp and the rind of aloe.