Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
The families of succulents abound with look-alike or copy cat plants that resemble other species. Here is an introduction to a few of those. Among these are ones that look very much like aloes, agaves, yuccas, and others.
False aloe (Chamaealoe africana)
Like the true aloe, this copy cat is a member of the Lily family. False aloe was originally native to South Africa. It is now used as a landscape plant in warm climates. Elsewhere, this is also grown as a houseplant.
Lacking a stem, false aloe consists mostly of slender, long fleshy leaves. With teeth along the edges, the foliage is arranged in a rosette. The leaves emerge from a thick base that looks very much like a bulb. On the lower side of the foliage there are white warty dots.
Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)
Native to the Southwest and Mexico, this species looks very similar to the true yuccas. It goes by various other common names, including western aloe. A member of the Agave family, this is a relative of the true yucca.
Red yucca is winter hardy to about zone six or so. This has leaves that can be rather large—three feet or so in length. This makes a good container plant and landscape plant. What sets this apart from the true yucca is the vibrant, bell shaped blooms, which contrast sharply with the white ones seen in the true yuccas.
False agave (Furcraea spp.)
There are several species of false agaves. Members of the Agave family, these are native to South America. In addition to the species there are also several varieties or cultivars with brightly colored, variegated foliage.
The false agaves are very tender, and would only be winter hardy in very warm areas of the U.S. These typically have narrow foliage arranged in rosettes. The plants often form clumps. The erect, stiff, pointed leaves can be huge—as much as eight or nine feet in length. The false agaves are very free flowering.
During the summer the tall flower stalks arise from the base. These can be over 15 feet in height. The blossoms are green on the outside and creamy white on the inside. These release a delightful fragrance.