There are several poisonous plants that look like Aloe Vera or have properties similar to those of the aloe plant. The aloe plant is a fascinating and useful succulent that has about 500 different species that include both edible and poisonous varieties.
The majority of such poisonous plants cannot be consumed due to their toxicity.
Poisonous Plants That Look Like Aloe Vera
People sometimes mistake every Aloe plant as Aloe Vera, but all aloe plants are not aloe vera.
This has created confusion that can have serious consequences. Using the wrong Aloe on a wound or consuming the wrong Aloe can be lethal. Some of the poisonous plants that look like aloe Vera are :
Aloe Ballyi is a succulent, evergreen tree that grows up to 8 metres in height. The stem is single, unbranched about 15cm in diameter, and surmounted with a crown of leaves.
The plant is harvested from the wild for local medicinal use and is also used as an ornamental plant in Nairobi, Kenya.
The sap of the Aloe ballyi gives off a strong ratty odour and contains anthraquinones that have many beneficial medicinal properties such as being a laxative. Anthraquinones are safe in small doses for a short duration, but can cause problems if used in excess like congestion and irritation of the pelvic organs.
Long term use of anthraquinone laxatives may result in the development of colorectal cancer as they have genotoxic potential and tumorigenic potential.
A Tall East African tree, Aloe elata is unbranched and can reach 20 feet with advanced age. Leaves are funneled and recurved on mature plants and give off a smell of rats or mice when broken. Inflorescences are multibranched with flowers that are red in bud and turn yellow when they open.
The leaf sap smells like rats and is toxic, containing alkaloids.
It is a stemless aloe with green or yellow-green leaves forming big clumps. It is found commonly in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya but not cultivated. The leaves give off a smell of rats or mice when broken. Inflorescences are multi-branched with yellow flowers in a flat circular inflorescence.
This species belongs to Africa. Their leaves, arranged in a rosette form are linear-lanceolate, can be 0.65 m long, with a grey-green surface and its edges bear small, reddish teeth. Flowers are beautiful bright yellow to orange in color upto 55 mm long, borne on an erect, unbranched or branched inflorescence. Its winged seeds are dispersed by wind. The straight stem can reach a height of 4 meters.
Lace Aloe, as it is popularly called, Aloe aristata is a low-growing plant, mostly found in South Africa. It’s fleshy, soft-spiky dark green leaves have white bumps and as the weather changes, the leaves change color and orange-red flowers grow on the long stems.
The most eye- catching feature of aloe polyphylla is the perfect spiral in which the leaves are arranged either clockwise or anti-clockwise in five spiral rows and are somewhat egg-shaped to elongated, green with a purple tip and tapering to a point at their ends. It is one of the few species that can survive freezing temperatures.
The plants are stemless and generally not multiple, although they grow in dense groups. They have diminished in the wild due to the lack of habitat and are now listed as endangered. Natural regeneration occurs from seeds as the plants do not form off-shoots.
It is a stem-forming Aloe species.
Aloe striata grows fast and develops from a small seedling to a mature 2-foot flowering plant in two years. Aloe striata remains single without any offsets and it has attractive red-orange flowers and rosettes of fleshy blue-green leaves.
The leaves of the original species (there are many hybrids like Aloe striata) are smooth and spineless, and are bluish-green in color. The leaves have red or white edges and can turn blush pink in cooler weather or under stress. As the flowers are coral red in colour,
Aloe striata is also known as Coral Aloe.
This aloe is dwarf and can reach a height of 40 cm. However, at its native place, it can reach a height of 4 meters. The leaves are green, fleshy with irregular, white transverse bands, 10 to 15 cm long, lanceolate, and are arranged around the stem-like roof tiles. Initially, they stand erect and as they become older, they curl up. The stem can easily lean if there are numerous flowers that are pale pink to scarlet red in colour.
These plants have no trunk and are creeping that can grow upto a length of 70 centimeters. The thick, spiny leaves are arranged in a large rosette and are about 60 centimeters long and about 12 centimeters wide. The leaves are covered with thorns on the upper and lower surfaces and each thorn arises from a thick base, which has a lighter colour than the rest of the leaf, giving it a dotted appearance.
Inflorescences are lemon yellow in color.
These plants come from South Africa and can reach a height of up to one meter. The stem is relatively short and has leaves that are 30 centimeters wide with brownish tips.These are narrow towards the leaf base where they are only 10 centimeters wide.
Inflorescences can reach up to 150 cm in height and flowers are whitish to lemon yellow in color.
This species has its origin in Africa.
Dwala Aloe is an easy-to-grow, clustering succulent that forms large colonies of turquoise green rosettes. The leaves have small, spiny edges and the tapering leaves develop a pinkish hue in the sunlight. Young plants have white spots on the leaves that vanish at maturity. Flowering occurs in winter and flowers are orange-red, tubular and arranged in branched inflorescence sought after by nectar-loving birds and insects. When in bloom, this aloe resembles Aloe globulogemma.
These aloes always grow in height up to 175 cm individually with no trunk. The leaves are erect and slightly pointed at the end and can be 60 to 90 centimeters long. The flowers are bright orange to scarlet red that exist in branched inflorescence.
Usually they grow in groups and these low-growing species of aloe have dark green, white-toothed leaves with dull white spots arranged in a dense rosette. The flowers are tabular, coral pink and are present in 2-3 stemmed, erect racemes. The green and white spotted leaves stand together in a dense rosette.
These aloes are native to South Africa and are stemless and short in height. The leaves are narrow, fleshy and green, covered with white, small warts, up to 30 centimeters long and are arranged in a rosette. The plants are ornamental and have 3 cm long flowers that are coral red with yellow tips held in racemes that are up to 40 cm high.
This aloe has its origin in North Africa. The trunk is generally creeping and can reach a height of up to 120 cm.
The leaves are very slender and white in young plants and turn green with age. It has branched inflorescence with flowers deep carmine in colour.
This variety belongs to South Africa. It grows closer to the ground at a younger age and develops a trunk only as it matures. The plant can grow upto a height of 2 meters. The leaves are thin, very long, light green to yellowish in color and have red spines on the edges. The stem can be 75 cm to 100 cm long. Flowers are salmon pink in color.
They grow individually or in small groups and the stem is very short and flat. The blue-green spined leaves are slightly curved inward, thus making them spherical in shape. The Aloe peglerae is an endangered species. Flowers are creamy white to pale red in colour, held in 40 cm high inflorescence.
Aloe saponaria (Aloe maculata)
This species is also popular as soap aloe. The plant contains a gel that can be used to wash hands or laundry. It can grow individually or sometimes in dense groups.
Flowers are salmon pink, orange, yellow or red in colour and are held in inflorescence. The gel of the plants is used in making cosmetic products.
All these are poisonous plants and their consumption should be avoided.
Plants That Look Like Aloe Vera But Aren’t
There are so many plants that look like aloe vera but aren’t. Some have aloe’s general shape, a few have spiky leaves and spines, whereas others have a thick, moisture-filled foliage similar to aloe vera.
The aloe vera is a succulent that grows wildly in arid climates and is also grown in gardens as well as in homes. Its spiky green, saw-toothed leaves have white spots and the plant produces tubular flowers.
There are a few plants that are generally mistaken for aloe vera due to their appearance. These are:
The agave is a succulent that resembles aloe vera with a short stem and lanceolate, thick-fleshed leaves with spiky edges. They can grow up to 2 meters long and 25 centimeters wide. The juice of the agave is poisonous and irritates the skin and if consumed, it can have serious consequences. Although, both types of plants actually look alike but have some differences like aloe leaf has a thick gel, whereas the agave has fibers.
The leaves of the aloe grow from the center of the plant whereas the new agave leaves grow in the outer area under older leaves.
A three-year-old aloe will flower twice a year, with the flowers growing sideways but agave will take years to bloom.
Aloe can’t tolerate cold, whereas agave can tolerate temperatures down to -20 degrees.
Aloes and cacti are botanically different, but both have a lot in common. Both are succulents, have thorns and have well-developed water storage capacity, thus can survive for a long time without water. Both prefer sunny areas.
The aloes belong to the family of grass tree plants (Xanthorrhoeaceae) with around 500 species, whereas the cactus plants have a family with over 100 genera and around 1800 species. The cacti store water in their stem and the aloes store water in their leaves.
Stapelia, just like aloe, is a succulent that stores water in its leaves. The leaves resemble cactus leaves more than the aloe as they are spiked and have a similar green color. A flowering stapelia looks similar to aloe and agave plants. The flower is not a series of tubular petals but one big starfish-looking flower.
Yucca looks more like aloe and yucca leaves are flat and glossy than aloe and they are not saw- toothed. The flowers are not tubular but are mistaken for aloe flowers from a distance.
Bromeliads of two particular groups, growing in arid regions, resemble the aloe. Even their flower spikes are similar to aloe. Dyckia and Hechtia constitute about 150 species of rosette-forming succulents with flat leaves and sharp teeth, all belonging to the desert regions in the U.S. Dyckia produce a tall flower spike surmounted in orange to yellow tubular flowers and are perennial, and don’t die after flowering. Hechtia flowers are creamy white and the plant dies after flowering.
Pineapple (Ananas comosus), a bromeliad, forms a tall rosette with long, flat leaves and spines. It also looks like an aloe. The pineapple plant grows a club-like flower on a stem that develops into the golden fruit. Without flower spikes or fruit, it cannot be easily distinguished from a large aloe. Pineapple plant dies as the fruit develops.
Haworthia plants resemble tiny aloe plants, growing about 3 to 8 inches tall. Their leaves may or may not be soft and fleshy and form a rosette. Haworthia attenuata and Haworthia fasciata have leaves with zebra-like white markings on the undersides of leaves. Haworthia tessellata leaves are like pointed lizard tongues and are plump and fleshy. These plants bear flowers that are tiny tubular or funnel-shaped pink to white on thin upright stems. Like aloe, they keep growing after flowering and developing seeds.