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Sansevieria trifasciata - Prain.

Common Name Mother-in-Law's Tongue, Snake plant
Family Asparagaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The plant contains glycosides and saponins and is very toxic[311 ]. Although poisonous, saponins are poorly absorbed by the human body and so most pass through without harm. Saponins are quite bitter and can be found in many common foods such as some beans. They can be removed by carefully leaching in running water. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will also normally remove most of them. However, it is not advisable to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish[K ].
Habitats A weed of roadsides, abandoned gardens, waste areas, disturbed sites, coastal environs, open woodlands, riparian vegetation and the margins of closed forests in tropical, sub-tropical and warmer temperate regions.
Range Western Tropical Africa - Nigeria to Gabon, east to Zaire..
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Sansevieria trifasciata Mother-in-Law

Sansevieria trifasciata Mother-in-Law
Wikimedia.org - Peter A. Mansfeld


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Physical Characteristics

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Sansevieria trifasciata is an evergreen Perennial growing to 0.8 m (2ft 6in) by 0.2 m (0ft 8in) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Sansevieria craigii auct. Sansevieria jacquinii N.E.Br. Sansevieria laurentii De Wild. Sansevieria zeylanica laurentii (De Wild.) L.H.Bailey

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

None known

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

The plant is used to treat ringworm and fungal diseases[311 ]. The leaf sap is applied directly on infected sores, cuts and grazes, it is also used to treat fungal and scabies infections[481 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Our Latest books on Perennial Plants For Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens in paperback or digital formats.

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Other Uses

A fibre obtained from the leaves is used to make string, mats etc[302 ]. The leaf pulp is used for cosmetics[317 ]. The NASA Clean Air Study found S. trifasciata has air purification qualities, removing 4 of the 5 main toxins. widely used as an ornamental, in both the tropics outdoors in both pots and garden beds and as an indoor plant in temperate areas. It is popular as a houseplant because 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.The variety S. trifasciata var. laurentii and the cultivar 'Bantel's Sensation' have both gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit. Industrial Crop: Fiber.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Industrial Crop: Fiber  Management: Hay  Minor Global Crop

Prefers a well-drained soil in a sunny or partially shaded position[302 ], and a pH between 6 and 7[200 ]. Bright sunlight can lead to bleaching of leaf colour[302 ]. Established plants are drought tolerant[200 ].

Carbon Farming

  • Industrial Crop: Fiber  Clothing, rugs, sheets, blankets etc. Currently, almost none of our fiber are produced from perennial crops but could be!
  • Management: Hay  Cut to the ground and harvested annually. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • Minor Global Crop  These crops are already grown or traded around the world, but on a smaller scale than the global perennial staple and industrial crops, The annual value of a minor global crop is under $1 billion US. Examples include shea, carob, Brazil nuts and fibers such as ramie and sisal.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

It can be propagated by cuttings, by dividing the rhizome and by seed. The first method has the disadvantage that the variegation will be lost.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Common Names: English: good-luck plant; iguanatail; konje hemp; snake plant; viper’s bowstring hemp. Spanish: lengua de suegra; lengua de vaca; sansevieria. French: chanvre d'Afrique; langue de belle-mère. Local Common Names: Cook Islands: riri. Costa Rica: Espada de Judas; Espada del Diablo. Germany: Bogenhanf. Guam: tigre. Jamaica: tiger cat. Lesser Antilles: oreillo di burian; rhamni; yerba ci cinta; yerba di colebas. Palau: kitelel. Tonga: alelo; elelo; ngata.

Widely naturalised in eastern Australia (i.e. throughout eastern Queensland and in the coastal districts of northern New South Wales). Also naturalised near Darwin, in the north-western parts of the Northern Territory, and on Lord Howe Island. Naturalised overseas in south-eastern USA (i.e. Florida), the Caribbean (i.e. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) and on several Pacific islands (e.g. the Cook Islands, Fiji, Palau, Western Samoa and Hawaii).

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

S. trifasciata is a very aggressive invasive plant able to grow in a great range of sunlit exposures (from complete sunny open areas to partial shaded areas). Additionally, this species is drought and heat tolerant (Gilman, 1999). Segments of leaves and rhizomes resprout easily and grow rapidly forming dense and virtually impenetrable thickets (Arnold, 2004). S. trifasciata is a succulent perennial herb included in the Global Compendium of Weeds and considered a “noxious weed” (Randall, 2012).

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Sansevieria hyacinthoidesAfrican Bowstring HempPerennial0.5 10-12 FLMSNDM023
Sansevieria roxburghianaIndian Bowstring Hemp, Bowstring HempPerennial1.0 10-12 FLMSNDM033
Sansevieria zeylanica Bowstring hempPerennial0.6 9-11 MLMHNDM024

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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