11 December 2010 by Julienne du Toit

Aloe, Aloe

In mid-winter, when the veld colours of the southern and Eastern Cape fade to dun and sage, the Aloe ferox begins to flower.

These spiky plants are festive as Christmas in July, their crimson or orange blooms dripping with nectar.

I still remember a time just after we’d moved to this lovely part of the world, standing spell-bound among flowering aloes. There was a happy buzz of bees, and I was entranced by the fact that even the aloe pollen, carried on their hind-legs in little ‘baskets’, was red.

Aloes usually have a ragged brownish skirt of old leaves that hang below the younger thorn-lined green ones. But in certain parts, you’ll find them looking altogether neater, with no skirt.

That’s because the leaves are being harvested. You may even see them on the ground, piled one on top of another in a circle, the dark bitter sap leaking slowly into a container.

Harvesters take only a few leaves at a time, and the aloe happily lives on (although the jury is out on whether it remains quite as frost-resistant).

So far, it’s quite sustainable, and more properties and uses for Aloe ferox sap and gel are being found all the time. The plant is anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, anti-tumour, antiviral. It heals wounds and burns, lowers cholesterol and boosts the immune system. You’ll find Aloe ferox used in South African drinks, face creams, gels, even sun protection products.

My medicine cabinet is full of the stuff.

Category: Health & Wellness

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