Sometimes We’re Mean Because We’re Actually Really Sweet

I’ve always had an obsession with aloes. As a student, it did my heart wonders to drive through the Eastern Cape of South Africa to and from Rhodes University in winter and see entire hill sides lit up with flaming Aloe flowers. I was such a pain about it that two friends even made me a t-shirt with the slogan “I ♡ aloes” painted on it for a birthday once. I think it’s got to do with the fact that they’re all scratchy and mean looking and then out of nowhere they burst into the most vibrant bloom. What a magnificent contradiction.

An aloe arborescens in bloom. Entire hillsides throughout South Africa will be lit up with these flowers during the winter months.

Their nasty spines act as a defense mechanism from being over-browsed by animals and may even serve to channel water towards their root system, making them capable of growing in fairly arid areas. Inside is so much succulent goodness though as well as so many magical, medicinal properties. The cousin to the aloe thraskii photographed here is the aloe vera, a plant that has more healing properties than most other herbs and plants on the planet. It is a disinfectant, antibiotic, antimicrobial, germicidal, antibacterial, antiseptic, anti fungal, and antiviral. Seriously.

A group of aloe thraskii photographed on the Durban beach front in South Africa. This species of aloe does particularly well in the sandy, well-drained coastal soils.

Each leaf has an incredibly spiny margin that serves to protect the plant from over-browsing. The downward shaped scoop of the leaf helps to direct water to the roots of the plant, which is able to thrive in some very arid areas.

Most people use aloe gel as a remedy for skin conditions, including burns, frostbite, psoriasis and cold sores, but there is a host of other aloe vera benefits. Aloe gel is used for treating osteoarthritis, bowel diseases, fever, itching and inflammation.

It’s also used as a natural remedy for asthma, stomach ulcers, diabetes and for soothing side effects of radiation treatment. Aloe latex is used to naturally treat depression, constipation, colic, asthma and diabetes. The list goes on and on for why it is used in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food industries.

I think this is such a wonderful metaphor for humans too.

Sometimes we put up all sorts of gnarly defenses or guards to protect ourselves but really inside we’re a lot of juicy goodness. Sometimes we built them as children and as we grow up we begin to see that they just don’t serve us anymore. Then when we feel safe enough or the time is right, we burst into bloom, sending out a flash of flaming flowers for hungry birds and insects to feast on in the heart of winter.

A white bellied sunbird feeds on the nectar of an aloe chabaudii. During the winter when very few other plants are flowering, aloes serve as a vital source of food for a variety of bird and insect species.

It’s a reminder that even the most bad ass looking of us have the capacity to be super soft and sweet.

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