Sansevieria trifasciata

From The Plant Encyclopedia

Sansevieria, Mother In Law's Tongue, Tiger Tail

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Sansevieria trifasciata also known as The Snake Plant or Mother In Law's Tongue

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Sansevieria trifasciata

Kingdom Plantae
Order Asparagales
Family Ruscaceae
Genus Sansevieria
Varieties in this species
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Aden Earth Zone

11 - 20


  • Cultivation: Easy-To-Grow
  • Light: Sun, Dappled, Part-Shade
  • Soil: Rich, Loam
  • pH: 7
  • Moisture: Wet, Medium, Well-Drained


  • Form: Herbaceous
  • Habit: Evergreen, Perennial
  • Flower: Small
  • Fruit/Seed: Small
  • Foliage: Leaves, Needles, Succulent, Variegated, Green, Yellow, White
  • Uses: Ornamental, Houseplant


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 gray-green cross-banding and usually range between 70–90 cm in length and 5–6 cm in width.

It is commonly called the snake plant (not to be confused with the very similarly named "Snakeplant", Nassauvia serpens), because of the shape of its leaves, or mother-in-law's tongue because of their sharpness. In China, it is known as hǔwěilán (虎尾兰, Tiger's Tail Orchid). In Japan, it is called 'Tiger's Tail,(とらのお)'. In Brazil, it is commonly known as espada-de-são-jorge (sword-of-saint-george). Due to its blade-like shape, it is commonly associated with Ogun, the Orisha of war (usually associated with Saint George), and is used in rituals to remove the evil eye. A yellow-tipped variant is known as espada-de-santa-barbara (sword-of-saint-barbara), and is associated with Iansan/Oya, the female Orisha of storms (usually associated with the sword-bearing image of Saint Barbara). In Africa, the plant is used as a protective charm against evil or bewitchment.

Cultivation and uses

File:Snake plant.jpg
Snake plant.jpg
Like some other members of its genus, S. trifasciata yields bowstring hemp, a strong Plant fiber once used to make bowstrings.
It is now used predominantly as an Ornamental plant, outdoors in warmer climates, and indoors as a Houseplant in cooler Climates. It is popular as a houseplant as it is tolerant of low light levels and irregular watering; during winter it needs only one watering every couple of months. It will rot easily if overwatered. A study by NASA found that it is one of the best plants for improving indoor air quality by passively absorbing toxins such as Nitrogen oxides and Formaldehyde.

Numerous Cultivars have been selected, many of them for variegated foliage with yellow or silvery-white stripes on the leaf margins. Popular cultivars include 'Compacta', 'Goldiana', 'Hahnii', 'Laurentii', 'Silbersee', and 'Silver Hahnii'.

It can be propagated by cuttings or by dividing the rhizome. The first method has the disadvantage that the Variegation is likely to be lost.
S. trifasciata is considered by some authorities as a potential weed in Australia, although widely used as an ornamental, in both the tropics outdoors in both pots and garden beds and as an indoor plant in temperate areas.[1]


  1. S. Csurhes and R. Edwards (1998). "Potential environmental weeds in Australia: Candidate species for preventative control" (PDF). Queensland Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved 2008-04-23. 

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