What I thought was A. Juvenna from Kenya is actually A. Squarrosa from Socotra but I’m not alone in my mistake. Google “A. Squarrosa” and at least half the returned images are mislabeled Juvennas….and some are from reputable succulent scholars and plant distributors!!!
Despite having the same white-spotted, bright green leaves, these aloes have VERY dissimilar shapes and growth habit. Squarrosa is a rock climber with long, recurved leaves that feel smooth to the touch; Juvenna is a small, clump-former with prickly, triangular leaves that grow upward in columnar fashion. Take a look at this image from photographer Christian Defferrard and you’ll see the difference:
If you’re wondering how I caught an identification error I never should have made in the first place, it has everything to do with flowering! Both aloes have the same unbranched inflorescence that carries a cluster of tubular, coral colored flowers with greenish tips, BUT Juvenna rarely (and I mean RARELY!!) goes into bloom. Imagine my surprise and suspicion when I noticed an inflorescence on this barely 2 yr old aloe
I don’t like that awful outlet dead center, so let’s just look at the spike:
All well and good to know exactly what I’m growing, but it still doesn’t explain the overall name game….so I dug a bit deeper. 😉
In 2003, the Aloes of the World Project began the daunting task of compiling data on each name given to every aloe in the world since record-keeping began in 1753. This compilation presented a unique opportunity to analyze and trace the use of common and scientific epithets in a large genus, and to identify trends in plant naming practices. If you’re at all interested in linguistics and plants, I highly recommend reading the entire research file, but for our purposes I’ve pulled out this little nugget ➡ in 1979 someone misread the pseudo-Latin “Juvenna” on the original label of a cultivated aloe tagged as “possible juvenile.” From that moment on, the new name stuck, but who and what Juvenna was before ’79 remains a mystery! I can tell you this, though–last week I saw an aloe at Home Depot labeled A. Zanzibarica and it looked exactly like the Juvenna in Christian Defferard’s picture further up the screen. 🙂 Uh-oh! Here we go again!
With so many mistagged plants and pictures out there, it’s amazing any of us ever gets it right!
Until next time……