Dracaena trifasciata: Snake plant

Family: Asparagaceae
Common name: Snake plant, Mother-in-law’s tongue, Saint George’s sword, Viper’s bowstring hemp, Sansevieria trifasciata

There is no other plant with such interesting names that visually describe the features of the plant. Though I have no idea why it’s called mother-in-law’s tongue. It’s not sharp!

Snake plants are an amateur gardener’s ideal bet. They grow indoors and outdoors, in bright sunlight, partial sunlight or even in shade. They need very little water and fertilization.

They are said to clean common toxins from the air according to NASA’s Clean Air Study. They can grow and flourish in small pots, big pots, ledges, windowsills, hedges, almost anywhere you place them. Snake plants are also very easy to propagate.

Just plant them in a pot and wait for long enough to see smaller plants sprouting beside it. Pull out the small plant gently, cut the root rhizome that connects both plants neatly, and replant. That’s it!

There are over 60 species of snake plants ranging in height from 8 inches to 12 feet. Most of these species have long, green, sword-like leaves with banded striations like that of snake skin, earning it the name ‘snake plant’.

There are varieties like Golden Hahnii with short leaves that have yellow borders, Cylindrical snake plant with round green leaves, Twist with twisted leaves, Rhino grass with red tinted leaves and White snake plant where the leaves have white vertical stripes.

Though very rare, Snakes plants do produce white or cream colored flowers on long 3 feet stalks, and have a strong fragrance. The plant has slight toxicity and can cause adverse reactions in cats and dogs.

Snake plants breathe using a very interesting method called Crassulacean acid metabolism or CAM wherein the stomata present on the leaves remain shut during the day to prevent excessive water loss in hot, desert climate. Stomata open at night to take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen.

Propagation is by replanting small plants that grow near parent plants, connected to them by rhizomes.

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