Sansevieria (2010)

By Chris Deem (February 2010)

She never looked up. She moved silently, her small feet banded in silk blue and green. Her flowing dress was silk and embroidered. The front of the dress was emerald-green with a bold, stylized spikelike flower. With a single, fluid movement, she rose and turned. The back of the dress was light blue. The embroidered yellow flower was now large and branched. In her black hair was a tiny cluster of pink flowers. She was a dancer.

Some time ago, I asked a friend for suggestions for a succulent plant article. Sansevierias came up. Sansevierias – oh yes, those ugly mother-in-law-tongue things covered in dust, sitting in dark hallways dying a slow death.

I started to research. To my astonishment and with apologies to all Sansevieria lovers, I learned what I could about these elegant plants. As most of you probably know, these plants are usually found in Africa. I also learned of one from Madagascar, which has red flowers.

I moved like mud through words like stolons and rhizomes, blah-blah-blah-stems. When I got to adaxial and abaxial, a tiny dancer came to my rescue. The front of her dress was dark and it was lighter in the back, like the front and back of many sansevieria leaves. The three types of flowers on her dress and in her hair were the three types of inflorescence flowers found on various sansevierias.

I had read through a mountain of information, but this is what stuck. Most of these plants need more light than they are given. Oh yes, I did learn one more thing. As sansevierias mature and finally flower, they do not suddenly die, but like my dancer, fade away slowly and are replaced by tiny elegant offsets.