26 March 2011

False Aloe is Manfreda virginica (L.) Salisb. ex Rose

One of False Aloe's names is Rattlesnake Master. Sounds ominous, doesn't it? False Aloe or Polianthes virginica is a perennial for dry, rocky areas. The nondescript flowers are green on six-foot stalks and supposedly have an Easter lily fragrance. 2BNtheWild has photos. And check out the photos at the Vanderbilt site.

The USDA plant profile (here) says that its plant family is Agavaceae (Century-plant family),
the Genus is Manfreda Salisb. – tuberose and the species, Manfreda virginica (L) Salisb. ex Rose  – false aloe, is the only one in the species with a native range that includes Oklahoma. The others are from Texas.

The roots were used in a variety of medicines back in Henrietta Herbal's day, 1898.
Dropsy, snakebite, worms and diarrhea were some of its applications.

They are supposed to grow in partly shady areas with average to rocky soil in zones 4-9 so I started seeds for the rocky spots at the back of the wooded area where the rains have washed away most of the soil over the years. Sphinx moths provide pollination. Oh, and, no insect or disease problems are known.


The seeds I started in cells are ready to be re potted. Some are getting a small pot of their own and others I'm putting into a pot in small groups of seedlings since they seem to do better.

Perennials always get off to a slow start from seed so I'll have to wait until next spring, at the earliest, to experience the intoxicating scent of the flowers. Can't wait!

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