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Dracaena trifasciata

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Snake plant
A variegated cultivar, 'Laurentii'
Wild plant with fruits
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Nolinoideae
Genus: Dracaena
D. trifasciata
Binomial name
Dracaena trifasciata
(Prain) Mabb.[1]
  • Sansevieria aureovariegata Mottet
  • Sansevieria jacquinii N.E.Br.
  • Sansevieria laurentii De Wild.
  • Sansevieria trifasciata Prain.

Dracaena trifasciata is a species of flowering plant in the family Asparagaceae, native to tropical West Africa from Nigeria east to the Congo. It is most commonly known as the snake plant, Saint George's sword, mother-in-law's tongue, and viper's bowstring hemp, among other names.[2] Until 2017, it was known under the synonym Sansevieria trifasciata.[1] This plant is often kept as a houseplant due to its non-demanding maintenance; they can survive with very little water and sun.


It is an evergreen perennial plant forming dense strands, 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 from 70–90 centimetres (2.3–3.0 ft) long and 5–6 centimetres (2.0–2.4 in) wide, though it can reach heights above 2 m (6 ft) in optimal conditions.[3]

The specific epithet trifasciata means "three bundles".[4]

The plant exchanges oxygen and carbon dioxide using the crassulacean acid metabolism process, which allows them to withstand drought. The microscopic pores on the plant's leaves, called the stomata and used to exchange gases, are opened only at night to prevent water from escaping via evaporation in the hot sun.

To get this plant to go into bloom outside of its natural environment is difficult. Replicating its natural environment is possible. Its flowers vary from greenish white to cream-colored — some are fragrant at night, others not at all — and have a sticky texture.[5]

Dracaena trifasciata is commonly called "mother-in-law's tongue", "Saint George's sword" or "snake plant", because of the shape and sharp margins of its leaves[2] that resemble snakes. It is also known as the "viper's bowstring hemp", because it is one of the sources for plant fibers used to make bowstrings.[6]

Cultivation and uses[edit]

Like other members of its genus, D. 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 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.[7] It is commonly recommended to beginners interested in cultivating houseplants for its easy care.[8]

The NASA Clean Air Study found D. trifasciata has the potential to filter indoor air, removing four of the five main toxins involved in the effects of sick building syndrome.[9] However, its rate of filtration is too slow for practical indoor use.[10]

It can be propagated by cuttings or by dividing the rhizome. The first method has the disadvantage that the variegation will be lost.[11]

D. trifasciata is considered by some authorities a potential weed in Australia, although widely used as an ornamental, in the tropics outdoors in pots and garden beds and in temperate areas as an indoor plant.[12][13]

The plant contains saponins which are mildly toxic to dogs and cats and can lead to gastrointestinal upset if consumed.[14]

In South Africa, it is also used to treat ear infections.[citation needed]

Varieties and cultivars[edit]

Numerous cultivars have been developed, 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'. 'Hahnii' was discovered in 1939 by William W. Smith Jr. in the Crescent Nursery Company, New Orleans, Louisiana. The 1941 patent was assigned to Sylvan Frank Hahn of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.[15]

The variety D. trifasciata var. laurentii,[16] together with the cultivars 'Bantel's Sensation'[17] and 'Golden Hahni'[18] have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[19]

Non-variegated forms of D. trifasciata are often incorrectly sold as Sansevieria zeylanica, which is an different species that is rarely cultivated.[20][21]

Cultural significance[edit]

In its native range in Africa, Dracaena trifasciata specimens with yellow stripes on the leaf margins are associated with Ọya, the female orisha of storms. In Nigeria, the plant is commonly linked with Ògún, the orisha of war, and is used in rituals to remove the evil eye.[22]

In Brazil, where it is known as espada de São Jorge ("Saint George's sword"),[23][24] it is grown outside houses to ward off evil that might harm the home (as is Dracaena angolensis, Saint George's spear).[24] The plant plays an important part in the Afro-Brazilian syncretic religion Umbanda,[23][24] also representing the orisha Ogum (Ògún),[25] as Ogum is syncretized with Saint George. Some yellow-edged varieties of D. trifasciata are called espada de Santa-Bárbara ("Sword of Saint Barbara") and are associated with Iansã, the Umbanda name for Ọya, Saint Barbara's syncretic orisha pair.[25][24] These types are grown to protect against inclement weather.[25][24]

This plant is visible on the porch in American Grant Wood's 1930 painting, American Gothic.[26][27][28]



  1. ^ a b c "Sansevieria trifasciata". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 2020-02-18.
  2. ^ a b "Sansevieria trifasciata". Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden. 20 July 2019. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  3. ^ "Snake Plant". Better Homes & Gardens. Retrieved 2021-06-15.
  4. ^ Harrison, Lorraine (2012). RHS Latin for gardeners. United Kingdom: Mitchell Beazley. p. 224. ISBN 9781845337315.
  5. ^ "Dracaena Trifasciata Care – #1 Best Care Guide". Plantophiles. 2 January 2021.
  6. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Sansevieria trifasciata". The PLANTS Database (plants.usda.gov). Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  7. ^ "Mother-in-Law's Tongue or Snake Plant". Retrieved 2010-03-04.
  8. ^ Roscoe, Zoe (1 October 2021). "The 8 Best Indoor Plants To Buy in 2022". The Manual. Retrieved 2020-05-17.
  9. ^ BC Wolverton; WL Douglas; K Bounds (July 1989). A study of interior landscape plants for indoor air pollution abatement (PDF) (Report). NASA. NASA-TM-108061.
  10. ^ Cummings, Bryan E.; Waring, Michael S. (2019-11-06). "Potted plants do not improve indoor air quality: a review and analysis of reported VOC removal efficiencies". Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology. 30 (2): 253–261. doi:10.1038/s41370-019-0175-9. ISSN 1559-064X. PMID 31695112. S2CID 207911697.
  11. ^ "Sansevieria Production Guide".
  12. ^ S. Csurhes and R. Edwards (1998). "Potential environmental weeds in Australia: Candidate species for preventative control" (PDF). Queensland Department of Natural Resources. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 10, 2007. Retrieved March 26, 2013.
  13. ^ "mother-in-law's tongue | Weed Identification – Brisbane City Council". weeds.brisbane.qld.gov.au. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  14. ^ "Mother-in-Law's Tongue". ASPCA.
  15. ^ Smith, William Walter. "Sansevieria". Plant Patent 470. United States Patent Office. Retrieved March 26, 2013.
  16. ^ "Sansevieria trifasciata var. laurentii". RHS. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  17. ^ "Sansevieria trifasciata 'Bantel's Sensation'". RHS. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  18. ^ "Sansevierie trifasciata 'Golden Hahni'". RHS. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  19. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 94. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  20. ^ Newton, L.E. (2020). "Sansevieria RUSCACEAE". In Eggli, Urs; Nyffeler, R. (eds.). Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Monocotyledons (2nd ed.). Berlin: Springer-Verlag GmbH. pp. 1353–1385.
  21. ^ Henley, R.W.; Chase, A.R.; Osborne, L.S. "Sansevieria Production Guide (CFREC-A Foliage Plant Note RH-91-30)". Retrieved 8 February 2023.
  22. ^ "A LA RECHERCHE DS PLANTES PERDUES, Les plante reouvées par les descendants culturels des Yoruba au Brésil" (in French). 1995-07-01. Retrieved 2020-08-14.
  23. ^ a b Carlessi, Pedro Crepaldi (2019-12-04). "How to Carry Out a Democratic Ethnobotanical Study". Ethnobiology Letters. 10: 113–119. doi:10.14237/ebl.10.1.2019.1547. S2CID 209473075. Archived from the original on 2020-08-14. Retrieved 2020-08-14.
  24. ^ a b c d e Aline Melo. "Espada de São Jorge, lança de São Jorge ou Espada de Santa Bárbara?" Casa e Jardim. 9 October 2020. Retrieved 10 February 2024. (in Portuguese) "No Brasil, popularizou-se o uso de três espécies: a Sansevieria zeylanica, autêntica espada-de-são-jorge, verde e rajada; a Sansevieria trifasciata, com bordas amareladas da raiz às pontas, que ficou conhecida como espada-de-santa-bárbara; e a Sansevieria cylindrica, a lança-de-são-jorge, com aspecto pontudo e folhagens fechadas em formato cilíndrico."
  25. ^ a b c Heloísa Von Ah. "3 tipos de Espada-de-São-Jorge: conheça as principais diferenças." WeMystic. Date not given. Retrieved 10 February 2024. (in Portuguese)
  26. ^ "The Painting - The Plants". American Gothic House Center. Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  27. ^ Ching, Barbara (2019). "Transplanted— Edward Hopper in Cedar Rapids, Grant Wood in New York City: A Review Essay". The Annals of Iowa. 78 (2): 194–206. doi:10.17077/0003-4827.12564. S2CID 242816098. Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  28. ^ Biel, Steven (2005). "Parody". American Gothic: A Life of American's Most Famous Painting. pp. 120–172. ISBN 9780393059120.

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