Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sansevieria trifasciata

Sansevieria trifasciata, aka "snake plant" or "mother-in-law's tongue" in English, plante serpent or langue de belle-mère in French, is a west African perennial commonly grown as a houseplant. It's unusual to see a specimen as large and healthy as this in a mall—this one is in Brookfield Place. (I believe the underplantings are Rhododendron simsii (Indian azalea, azalé de l'Inde) and Hedera helix (English ivy, lierre grimpante). The latter is an invasive plant here in Toronto, which should be confined to indoor plantings like this rather than planted in the garden).

I briefly had a sansevieria, which I picked up half-dead at Canadian Tire because I felt sorry for it. I thought that the leaves would be too tough and unappetizing for my cats to nibble, but I was wrong. There is some debate over how toxic sansevieria is, but according to Plants are the Strangest People's Houseplant Toxicity Series, Sansevieria trifasciata can kill a cat. I've composted mine.

I should mention that I dislike the common names "mother-in-law's tongue" and langue de belle-mère for this plant, since they are a dig at mothers-in-law (the sharp leaves of the plant are supposed to be like the sharp tongues of mothers-in-law). I have had two mothers-in-law and they both are lovely people whom I am grateful to have known.

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