Have you ever used Aloe vera to treat a sunburn? Maybe you have enjoyed a glass of Aloe vera juice. Aloe vera is the most well-known Aloe, but it is only one of hundreds of Aloe species! Let’s explore a different Aloe! This plant’s scientific name is Aloe mitriformis. This plant’s common name in English is Mitre Aloe. Look closely at the photos and videos below. What do you notice? How do you think this plant has adapted to survive in its environment?
Important safety note: Many Aloes are toxic to humans! Do not open Aloe leaves, consume Aloe juice, or put Aloe gel on your skin without consulting an expert!
Scientific Name: Aloe mitriformis (AH-loh mih-tri-FOR-mis)
Common Name: Mitre Aloe (Eng.); Krans Aalwyn (Afr.)
Range: South Africa, Africa
aloe mitriformis interactive image
Succulence. These leaves are thick because they are full of water. Succulent plants often have squishy leaves or stems because the organ is filled with liquid! Succulence is when a plant stores water in its leaves or stems. This Aloe stores water in its leaves. When it is very dry in the plant's environment, this plant can use its stored water to help it stay alive. Succulence is an adaptation to help the plant survive in hot and dry environments.
Vertical Leaves. The vertical leaves help the plant stay cool. Overheating is dangerous for people, and it is dangerous for plants too! Vertical leaves are an adaptation to minimize the parts of the plant facing the sun during the hottest part of the day. This shade helps the plant keep its water longer. Vertical leaves are an adaptation to help the plant survive in hot and dry environments.
Pale Leaves. Pale leaves reflect more sunlight than dark leaves. Pale leaves absorb less heat than dark leaves. This prevents overheating! Overheating is dangerous for people, and it is dangerous for plants too! Pale leaves are an adaptation to help the plant survive in hot and dry environments.
Which color do you think best matches the leaves of this plant? Which other colors would you add to these color cards to help us describe the Aloe mitriformis leaves?
Waxy Surfaces. All leaves have a cuticle that protects the leaf and helps to keep water inside. Some stems also have a waxy covering on the outside. Some plants have adapted an especially thick waxy cuticle. When the cuticle is thick, the plant keeps even more water inside! Waxy cuticles are an adaptation to help the plant survive in hot and dry environments.
Questions & Prompts
What do you observe?
What do you wonder?
Imagine touching this plant. What would it feel like? Do you think different parts of the plant feel different?
If you could ask this plant one question, what would you ask?
This plant’s common name (or nickname) is Mitre Aloe (in English) and Krans Aalwyn (in Afrikaans). Why do you think people chose these common names? What common name (or nickname) would you give to this plant? Why?
What do you think would happen to this plant if it were transplanted to a rainforest? Why do you think that?
What colors do you see on this plant? Do you see any of these greens? Can you recreate these colors using art supplies?
Be an engineer! Study the adaptations that help this Aloe survive in a low water environment. Create an invention to help people survive low water environments. Your invention should use the same features that the Aloe mitriformis uses. What does your invention do? Is your invention sustainable?
Be an artist! Create an abstract artwork based on this plant’s features. When you’re done, write a label for your artwork.
Be an artist! Create a pattern artwork based on a plant part pattern you see. When you’re done, write a label for your artwork.
Be an artist! Create a work of botanical art for this plant.
Write from the perspective of a small desert animal (you choose which animal). The animal encounters this plant for the first time. What do they think? What do they notice? What do they do?
Art connection! Here is a botanical artwork of Aloe mitriformis.
What new information can you learn about this plant by looking closely at the artwork?
What surprises you about this artwork?
How is the artwork similar to the photographs above? How is the artwork different?
If you were to make botanical artwork of Aloe mitriformis, what artistic choices would you make? What materials would you use? What colors? Why?
Resources and References
“Aloe Mitriformis.” n.d. Accessed June 7, 2021. http://pza.sanbi.org/aloe-mitriformis.
“Aloe Perfoliata (Mitre Aloe).” 2020. World of Succulents (blog). August 13, 2020. https://worldofsucculents.com/aloe-perfoliata-mitre-aloe/.