Friday, September 16, 2011

Plants: Variegated Mother In-law’s Tongue – in Bloom!

Behind every successful man stands a surprised mother-in-law. – Voltaire

It's a rare occurrence for this to bloom. One plant, one stem, 20+ blooms.
Well, I never… and I mean it. I have never, ever seen one of these common houseplants in bloom in all the years I have lived with them. Why our little one decided to put on a display this summer is beyond me. 

I know that some plants bloom to propagate when they’re feeling stress. Maybe that’s it. What with all that’s been going on lately I haven’t been on top of my watering. Although that shouldn’t have done it. 

This plant is tolerant of low light levels and “irregular” watering. In fact, it only needs to be watered every 2 months throughout the winter. It also enjoys dry air but it doesn’t like cold below 60°F. The perfect house plant.

So what exactly is it, you may rightly ask.

From Wikipedia:
Sansevieria trifasciata is a species of Sansevieria, native to tropical west Africa from Nigeria east to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is an evergreen herbaceous perennial plant forming dense stands, spreading by way of its creeping rhizome, which is sometimes above ground, sometimes underground. Its stiff leaves grow vertically from a basal rosette. Mature leaves are dark green with light grey-green cross-banding and usually range between 70–90 cm in length and 5–6 cm in width.

Its common and far more colourful name in North America is “Mother In-law’s Tongue.” The leaves are very hard and sharp edged. Ergo, the name, although that does not in any way describe MY mother in-law at all. I happen to have  very nice one.

Sansevieria trifasciata has been introduced to the
wild in Australia and is out competing native species.
Photo: Bettina, Flickr ccl
The flowers are fairly small and “spidery” with reflexing white petals. Before they open, the buds are like 1” thin tubes that cock out at an angle from the stalk. Some emerge singly and others are in groups, increasing  as they move upwards. The stalk emerges from the centre rosette of the plant. On our very tiny specimen we have at least 20 blossoms. It’s actually quite attractive in bloom, and a pleasant surprise.

Like some other members of its genus, Sansevieria trifasciata yields a hemp plant fibre once used to make bowstrings. Regarding its use as an ornamental plant, and in common with the Peace Lily, it helps clean indoor air. A study by NASA found that S. trifasciata passively absorbs toxins such as nitrogen oxides and formaldehyde. Don't eat it though. All parts are mildly toxic to humans.

S. trifasciata can be propagated by cuttings or by dividing the underground rhizome but they’re so common in stores that it really isn’t worth the effort. A fairly large pot with at least 10 individual plants usually won’t cost much more than $15.00.

This was such an odd occurence I just had to post some pictures. I hope I showed you something you have never seen before. I have no idea when out little friend will grace us with blooms again, but I have read it may be a long time. A very long time…


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