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The aloes are a major group of Old World succulents, comprising over 600 taxa in the genera Aloe, Aloiampelos, Aloidendron, Aristaloe, Gonialoe, and Kumara. Together with Astroloba, Gasteria, Haworthia, Haworthiopsis, and Tulista, they comprise a group known collectively as the alooids, after a Dahlgrenian concept, within Xanthorrhoeaceae subfam. Asphodeloideae. All alooids are, to varying extents leaf succulents and many exhibit other features typical of plants adapted to drought-prone environments, such as a waxy cuticle and sunken stomata. The alooids share a southern African center of diversity, and Aloe is the most widespread of the representatives, as it is found throughout the Arabian Peninsula, Africa, Madagascar, and on islands in the western Indian Ocean. Members of the related genera of Xanthorrhoeaceae subfam. Asphodeloideae occur more widely in Africa, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Significant progress has recently been made toward a well-resolved phylogeny of the alooids, resulting in changes to the circumscription of the two most speciose genera, Aloe and Haworthia. The extensive literature on aloes and related genera is reviewed here in the context of recently defined generic concepts, in order to highlight current understanding of the biology, conservation concerns, and research questions, for this charismatic group.
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Dr Olwen Grace is a researcher at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Her research interests focus on the evolution of water-storing plants and phylogenetic approaches to interpreting the ways people value plant diversity. Her approach combines field observations with the laboratory in order to understand when, where and how these plants evolved, and how they can be harnessed to address issues facing humanity today. Olwen M. Grace's Author Page
Professor Nina Ronsted is curator of botanical collections at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, part of the University of Copenhagen. Her research explores the evolution and use of plants and the correlation between phylogeny, biological interactions and natural products, to explain patterns and processes of diversity. One of her focal areas is the phylogenetic exploration of medicinal plants- such as the mysterious Aloe vera-to offer new solutions for the appreciation and sustainable use of biodiversity resources and ultimately improve health. Nina Ronsted's Author Page