Scientific Name: Sansevieria trifasciata
- Order: Asparagales
- Family: Asparagaceae
- Genus: Sansevieria
- Species: S. trifasciata
The snake plant is in the same order and family as the common asparagus fern, which we wrote about yesterday on our blog.
A slow-growing succulent, it is also called Mother-in-Law’s Tongue or viper’s bowstring hemp and is very, very hardy as a houseplant. Just don’t overwater it — you may cause it to die. Naturally toxic, the snake plant repels insects but is dangerous to children and pets who may eat it. Once consumed, the snake plant causes nausea and vomiting.
The snake plant is a native of Africa and usually grows up to four feet tall (approx. 1.2 meters). The genus name Sansevieria refers to Raimondo di Sangro (b. 1710), an Italian nobleman who was also a patron of horticulture. The species name trifasciata is Latin for “three bundles.” And, of course, the common name “snake plant” refers to the appearance of the plant’s leaves, which are smooth and striped.
One of the best plants for purifying air, snake plant is fondly dubbed “the bedroom plant”, since it is popular as a houseplant that removes toxins from the air. As a result, the snake plant aids sleep and prevents respiratory problems. Another plant that is a natural air-purifier is the spider plant, which is from the same family as the snake plant — Asparagaceae, which includes the garden asparagus we eat.
Besides being used as a houseplant, the plant has strong fibers that can be used. Long ago, indigenous peoples crafted bow strings out of snake plant’s fibers. In the 1910s and 1920s, an industry for ships’ ropes emerged in Southern Florida. The industry favored snake plant fibers until synthetic materials like nylon dominated the industry instead.