False Aloe

Photo of false aloe leaves in basal rosettes.
Scientific Name
Manfreda virginica (formerly Agave virginica)
Asparagaceae (asparaguses) formerly Agavaceae (agaves) and Amaryllidaceae (amaryllises)

Perennial with a large basal rosette of soft, fleshy, flattened, sword-shaped leaves. Flowers in a loose spike atop a long, leafless stalk; greenish yellow, to 1 inch long, tubular, 3-lobed, tepals fused at the bases, stamens protruding. Fragrance like Easter lilies. Blooms June–August, sometimes to October. Leaves in a basal rosette, fleshy, dark green, sometimes with reddish-purple markings, lanceolate, pointed, with fine teeth along margins. Fruit a round capsule.

Similar species: There are 3 species of Yucca in Missouri, and they are relatives of false aloe. They have leathery leaves, and their tepals (petals and sepals) are free, not fused at the base.

Common Name Synonyms
American Aloe; Rattlesnake Master
Height: flower stalk to 6 feet; leaves 2–16 inches long.
Where To Find
image of False Aloe American Aloe Rattlesnake Master distribution map
Common and widespread in the Ozarks, north to the Meramec River.
Occurs in glades, dry uplands, open woodlands, usually in thin, rocky, alkaline soils, but also sometimes in sandy or cherty areas. False aloe, and its relatives the agaves and yuccas, New World plants, share many adaptations for survival in dry habitats and climates: the rosette of leaves channels rainfall toward the roots, and fleshy leaves store water and resist evaporation. The true aloes, unrelated and native to Africa, have evolved similar solutions to the same environmental challenges.
Using DNA evidence, botanists have reorganized the many plants once included in the lily family. One group within that family has become a separate family, the Asparagaceae (named for its representative genus, Asparagus). That family includes the agaves, yuccas, and false aloe, which have sometimes been given their own family, Agavaceae. True aloes, also once members of the lily family, are fairly unrelated, are placed in a separate family, and are native to Africa, not the New World.
With its interesting foliage, tall, long-flowering stalks, and fragrant flowers, false aloe is a good low-maintenance native wildflower for gardening. It’s perfect for sunny, rocky, well-drained, dry areas; try it in the back of a rock garden.
Moths pollinate this species at night, though bees and hummingbirds visit the flowers, too.
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Similar Species
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!