Humans use plants in an enormous variety of foods, health products, household cleaning products, often without even knowing it. Plants store carbon and that’s ultimately why we’re restoring forests, but they also do more.
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in London, is embarking on a project to explore the evolutionary history of a plant that is widely used across the world. That species is Aloe vera. Aloe vera is an ingredient in cosmetic products, skin care medicines, food and much more. As popular as it is in our shopping baskets though, it remains a “botanical mystery”.
Kew is hoping find out how this species evolved from a wild plant into a “natural product superstar”. It remains unclear why this species has become so popular while hundreds of related aloes with potentially similar properties have not. To answer this question, the project will investigate the relationships between this important species and its wild relatives. Identifying the closest relatives of Aloe vera will determine whether it’s unique in its beneficial properties for which it is famous, or whether they are shared with other species.
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