Aloe! Happy Monday!
Most aloe plants come from Africa:
They look dry and spiky, but in fact the jelly inside the leaves is said to be very soothing. One of the aloes, Aloe vera (a strange plant which doesn't ever seem to have existed wild anywhere in the world) is used to cure burns, frostbite, radiation injuries and ulcers, though no one's proved it actually works.
If you're in America and you see an aloe growing wild then it probably isn't an aloe at all, but a sort of Mexican agave also called a century plant:
The flower spikes can be up to 8m high. Beware, though, because it's different from a true aloe in that the sap of this plant is acid and raises blisters. On the other hand you can make rope or thread from the leaves, and a syrup or drink called pulque from the juices of a cut flower stalk.
Aloes (this word looks like a plural, but isn't) is found from Pakistan to New Guinea. It's famously smelly:
The aloes is the dark stuff. It's dark because the Aquilaria tree has been infected by a sort of fungus which makes the tree produce a dark very smelly resin that's valuable for use in incense and perfumes.
Bitter aloes, Aloe ferox:
is used to make a disgusting medicine to cure constipation.
If you, like me, live in one of the many places where no aloe plant grows wild (although they infest window sills everywhere):
then you'll find extract of aloe vera in all sorts of things. Face creams, shaving stuff, shampoos, even toilet paper and yogurt.
When you see it, don't forget to say aloe.
Spot The Frippet: aloe. This word comes from the Latin aloē.