There were two noticeable changes greeting my return to San Francisco from Costa Rica and Christmas. One of the two used ‘n’ abused couches that reeked of cat piss and had been crowding the top of stairs for about two really awesome months was finally gone. And, my Sansevieria trifasciata had sent up a blooming spike.
I didn’t even know this could happen. Did you? Or at least, I never imagined what this species’ flowers would look like. See, Sansevieria trifasciata is a pretty harsh looking plant — two of its common names are “mother-in-law’s tongue” and “snakeplant” — with thick, pointed leaves that can reach four feet tall, pointed on the tips like serpentine spears. It’s classically low-maintenance, making it an incredibly common houseplant since it can thrive in places with practically no light and be watered as little as once every two months.
In its native land of tropical west Africa, its connections with the human world are fierce, as well: According to Wikipedia, this plant is used as a protective charm against evil or bewitchment (much like “the moloch” passed down to a young Dio from his
Italian grandmother). Similarly, in Brazil, S. trifasciata is often associated with the Orisha of war, Ogun, and is used in rituals to remove the curse of the evil eye. And it has a strong, brutal, and practical use, too: The sword-shaped leaves offer a fiber used to fashion bowstrings. Even the etymological
origin is less than gentle: -fasciata comes from the Latin “fasces”, which referred to a bundle of rods tied around an axe, a symbol of the power of the State in ancient Rome and later the basis, of course, of the word “fascism”. There is one more benefit to add to its protecting against the evil eye and requiring about no attention is that Sansevieria trifasciata is reportedly one of the best houseplants to purify indoor air, notably helping take care of formaldehyde and nitrogen oxides.
But back to the flowers. Supposedly they smell good and strong, like jasmine. The ones on my plant have yet to open, but checking out this photo from a blog called Blue Daze, it looks like the small blossoms are dominated by long, skinny, cream-colored stamens. Something to look forward to in the New Year.
Sometimes even unexpected beauty isn’t enough to beat the winter/holiday soul-crud, though, which is where funny people like Dan Piraro, the man behind the genus Bizarro, come in. These were two of my favorites from December:
Did he call you on it? Yeah, me too. And what about this?:
- The Herbal Kitchen by Kami McBride
- Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
- Cacti, Agaves, and Yuccas of California and Nevada by Stephen Ingram
- Ecological Intelligence by Ian McCallum, and
- Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers by Stephen Harrod Buhner
While perusing these pages all winter, I’ll be snug under my new Phyte Club quilt, handmade by my mom. What a surprise! She printed photos from the site onto fabric and then went from there. A little self-referential, perhaps, but incredibly lovely and personal.
But before any reading gets done, the New Year must get celebrated. Frankly, I was surprised by the near total lack of good shows offered tonight. Black Cobra’s comin’ through, though, pummeling into 2012 with strength and simplicity.
Have fun tonight! If you’re going to drive, don’t drink but better yet just use your bike (and even then, don’t be a dumbass) or stay on a couch. Make sure you feel good enough in the morn to go on a hike or do something otherwise beautiful and soul-affirming so your year doesn’t kick off with you feeling like shit. Okay?