It’s cultivated across much of the world for cosmetic and medicinal purposes. Its origins are mysterious. It has been transplanted so widely, its ancestral home is a matter of debate: Sudan or the Arabian peninsula? These regions have been suggested because they host similar native Aloes. Locations further afield have also been considered — perhaps the Canary Islands?
An international coalition of scientists from the UK, Denmark, Norway, Australia, Ethiopia and South Africa, led by Olwen Grace of London’s Kew Gardens and Nina Rønsted of the University of Copenhagen, attempted to solve the mystery by assembling a comprehensive genetic sampling of members of the Aloe genus.
“Tell me professor” he was holding a vigorous specimen, “what do you think?”
He smiled, amused by my curiosity, “We’ll never know for sure, but we believe Aloe vera originated on the Arabian peninsula — the northernmost extreme of the Aloe’s natural range.
It’s ancient popularity,” he explained, “is apparent in it’s spread along trade routes.”
I nodded. I’ve seen it’s fleshy leaves sold in Manhattan’s best markets. I’ve sold it to San Francisco cooks to sooth burns. It thrives in my coastal garden.