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Sansevieria cylindrica Bojer ex Hook. 1859
pronounced: san-seh-VEER-ee-uh sill-IN-drick-uh
(Asparagaceae – the asparagus family)
common names: Spear Sansevieria, African Twist
This is a close relative of the Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, and just as indestructible and potentially aggressive.
Sansevieria is named for Prince Raimond de Sansgrio de Sanseviero, 18th century patron of botanical expeditions. The meaning of cylindrica is obvious.
The species was described by Wenceslas Bojer in 1837, and received its name after a competition held in a Dutch national newspaper. This plant consists of stout, cylindrical spears that spring from the sandy soil of its native Algeria. When it is used as a house plant, these spears can be braided, as in the plant illustrated, or left in their natural fan shape. The plant in the photograph is 28 cm tall, and it will probably grow no bigger. The individual spears are about 2 cm in diameter half way up. If the raffia at the top that holds the plant in this shape is removed, the individual spears will unravel, and gradually re-assume the natural splayed-out form of the plant in its natural state.
Spear Sansevieria has striped, round leaves that are smooth and of a green-grey colour. If the plant is growing in the ground, these leaves can reach almost 2 m tall. They are stiff, and grow from a basal rosette. The plant, if grown in the ground, blooms once a year in the spring or the mid-summer, producing 4 cm greenish white tubular flowers tinged with pink, on small flower-spikes arising from the bases of the leaves. Small globular red fruits are produced. The species is drought-tolerant, and needs only a little water every couple of weeks or so. If grown as a house plant, once a month is probably sufficient, with the very occasional addition of a little liquid fertilizer to keep the foliage a healthy green colour. Eventually the plant will produce baby shoots from the base, which should be pinched off if the plant is to maintain its shape. These plants may be repotted every couple of years in a fast-draining cactus mix, but they quite like being somewhat root-bound. Most garden shops seem to sell the plants in pots without a drainage hole. The roots will rot if they sit in water, as will the roots of most succulents: so, if the pot has no drainage hole, great care must be taken not to over-water the plant.
Sanseviera cylindrica can be propagated by cuttings or by division at any time of the year. The cuttings will produce a rhizome at the cut end of the leaf. There are a few varieties available, differing mostly in the presence or otherwise of stripes on the leaves. It is hoped that the increasing number of these plants appearing in island gardens will not become as invasive as Mother-in-law’s Tongue has.
Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2009-2014
Page last updated 5th February 2017