Schweinf. ex Baker
Sansevieria ehrenbergii (blue sansevieria, sword sansevieria, oldupai, or East African wild sisal) is a flowering plant which grows in northeastern Africa from Libya south to Tanzania, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. It occurs notably in proliferation along the Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania.
S.ehrenbergii bears its leaves in two opposite rows (distichous), forming a sparse fan-shape. It develops a short stem of maximum 18cm length (unlike stemless species such as S.patens, S.pearsonii, S.rhodesiana or S.deserti)
Mature leaves are rounded in cross-section, though with grooved channel on the inner side, dark green and usually range between 0.5 and 1.5 m in length and 2.45 and 8.0 cm in width.
The plant offsets by rhizomes, eventually forming tight, relatively dense clusters.
In 1911, the German entomologist Wilhelm Kattwinkel, while searching for butterflies, stumbled into a gorge. He asked the indigenous Maasai people what the gorge was called. They did not understand what he was saying and thought he was referring to the plants Sansevieria ehrenbergii, to which they responded oldupaai. Kattwinkel misinterpreted and mispronounced what they were saying by referring to the gorge as "Olduvai Gorge".
The Maasai have used S. ehrenbergii for antiseptics, natural bandages, rope, baskets, roofs and clothes. They were also useful for stitching and sewing as well as patching and repairing leatherwork. To make the rope, the leaves were cut, then taken and left to soak in water until the outer layer had split and rotted down which would allow it to be easily separated from the fibrous matter inside. They were then removed from the water and taken to a hard flat surface to be beaten with heavy clubs until the fibres were loosened. The fibrous material was then extracted, separated into strands and worked into cordage of various thicknesses. Fibres from the Sansevieria ehrenbergii were short but very strong threads which were popular when making slingshots
During the 1970s, paleoanthropologist Bill Montagne was working in Olduvai Gorge and became injured. He received treatment in the form of a natural bandage made from S. ehrenbergii, after which he was so impressed, he began pharmaceutical research.
Sansevieria ehrenbergii was also traditionally used to treat circular weeping sores with the juice squeezed out from a snapped off leaf. In years of drought, this plant was also vital in sustaining cattle until the next rains.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sansevieria ehrenbergii.|