Sansevieria trifasciata (RUSCACEAE) Mother-in-law’s Tongue

Weeds to Whack

A fleshy succulent whose name refers to the triangular cross sections of the tongues, native to Africa. Mature leaves are dark green with light gray-green banding to almost a metre in length. Very popular as an indoor plant as it requires almost no maintenance. The form used in the garden trade is usually a variagated cultivar, with strong yellow banding along the length of the leaves. Forms untidy clumps in gardens where it has been planted, and spreads quite quickly on dry hillsides in local bushland where it has been dumped in garden waste. It spreads by means of a creeping rhizome, sometimes above ground. Also placed in the Agavaceae Dracaenaceae family.
Photo: Matt Tomkins


Flowers are greenish-white on 45 cm spikes in spring. The fruit is a small globose orange berry with fleshy seeds, rarely seen. These were in a garden in Taringa. Yields a strong fibre that has been used for bow strings, hence common names including African Bowstring Hemp, Konje-hemp.
Photo: Robert Whyte