sansevieria plants are the most chill. they’re easy to care for and super sturdy. commonly known as snake plants, these guys are native to africa. snake plants hold a special place in my heart. the trifasciata to the left in the photo below is a pup from a mother plant at my grandparents’ place. it was gifted to my paternal family when they arrived in canada in 1979. i love having a piece of my family history & it is a reminder of our journey. please check out #jmsansevieria on instagram for progress shots.

although ethnically chinese, my family was displaced & the past few generations were born & raised in vietnam. my family fled vietnam in the late 1970s following the american war. i am sharing this with you because it is important to consider how we think of refugees. while refugees endure danger & violence fleeing their home countries, we must remember that they are human beings actively working towards a better life. humans like you & me who have risked everything for safety & security. this plant is a testament to my family & symbolizes our strength & perseverance.  

my sansevieria fam ~ back from left to right: s. trifasciata, s. trifasciata, s. mansoniana, s. trifasciata; front from left to right: s. cylindrica, s. trifasciata ‘golden hahnii,’ s. trifasciata ‘moonshine,’ s. fernwood, s. trifasciata

history

sansevierias originate from tropical regions in africa. they can grow in a wide variety of habitats (gilman, 1999) and can live for longer than 50 years (stover, 1983). tallei and colleagues (2016) conducted phylogenetic analyses and found that the genus is monophyletic – meaning all plants are from a common ancestor not shared with another group.

it is believed that sansevieria species were introduced to florida during a period of spanish colonization between 1765 & 1820 (henley, 1982). during the 1920s, s. trifasciata was commercialized as a houseplant and was later exported to europe, central & south america, and the caribbean (henley, 1982).

sansevieria plants have several adaptations for surviving in dry & arid regions. these include thick, succulent leaves whereby water is stored & thick leaf cuticles that reduce loss of moisture. similar to other succulent plants, sansevieria plants use crassulacean acid metabolism (cam) as a part of photosynthesis. cam reduces water loss through nocturnal transpiration contributing to drought & heat tolerance (koller & rost, 1988). more spescifically, s. trifasciata has a high level of salt-tolerance and low nutrient requirements (garofalo et al., 2000; brown, 2011).

did you know?

a cream comprised of extracts of s. masoniana, along with aloe vera & ananas comosus aka pineapple plant, has been shown to heal skin wounds & is anti bacterial (prakoso, rini, & wirjaatmadja, 2018). s. masoniana has been used medicinally & contains components that are secondary metabolites produced by plants to protect themselves against microorganisms in the environment (sham et al., 2010).

in addition, the leaves of s.trifasciata have been used medicinally around the world. orang asli, indigenous malaysians, have used the leaves of s. trifasciata to treat ear pain, swelling, boils and fever. sunilson & colleagues (2009) conducted a study on the effect of treatment and found that extracts significantly increased pain threshold and prevented/reduced fever. they have also been shown to be effective in treating sore throats, itchy skin, & urinary diseases (comerford, 1996; lans, 2006).

research has show that the leaves of s. trifasciata can lower blood glucose levels. in sabah, malaysia, people use a decoction of the leaves to treat diabetes (guntavid, 2001). studies have supported the anti-diabetic properties of extracts of s. trifasciata (qomariayah et al., 2012; yumna et al., 2018).

historically, the fibre of sansevieria plants has been used as raw material for textiles. fibre extracted from s. trifasciata, through methods such as water retting, is strong, fine, & doesn’t elongate (kant & algae, 2013). this makes it a cost-effective, biodegradable, & renewable resource that can be used to create items such as sacks, ropes, and other crafts from textiles. 

care tips

  • low to bright, indirect light. i have mine close to east-facing windows 
  • water when you remember, seriously, this plant will be fine. just make sure you don’t over water it. i water mine once every couple weeks in summer and once a month in winter. this will vary depending on your environment (e.g., exposure, humidity, season, placement).
  • propagate by separating pups from the mother plant or from leaf cuttings – although variegation will be lost via leaf cuttings

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