Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sansevieria trifasciata 'Silver Sheen' ,Portulaca grandiflora

Tall silver Sansevieria trifasciata 'Silver Sheen' ,pink rosette succulent Graptoveria 'Huth's Pink' and double flowering Portulaca grandiflora

The Brazilian native Portulaca is one of the great easy care summer/autumn flowering annuals which can be used as a fill in plant for hot dry spots in the garden especially where the soil is sandy or where a gravel or pebble mulch has been used . It is in flower continuously during the warm months, with flowers opening on all but dull days. When flowering does stop it is worth scattering around some of the seed which has formed as they will probably return next year though the flowers may revert from double to single. The winter/spring flowering equivalent which could be used as a replacement plant is the Livingstone Daisy (Mesembryanthemum criniflorus)
This has as equally vibrant flowers though the leaves are of note as they glisten as if covered by ice crystals.
Sansevieria have had something of a revival in recent years mainly because of their architectural form which suits minimalist gardens and interiors. Their low water requirements and ability to grow in low light conditions make them a fairly easy care plant. The main problems encountered when growing them come in winter as they are very cold sensitive and quickly rot in too wet conditions or they will form unsightly dead patches on the leaf blades as a reaction to cold. The rhizomatous roots of Sansevieria also have the ability to break open non sturdy containers or appear at the base of the pot sending up a new plant through the drainage holes.
In tropical Africa, Central America and India, Sansevieria have more practical uses. The leaf fibres are used to make bowstrings, rope,cordage,matting and clothing while the sap and roots have medicinal properties. In Angola where it is used to make deep sea dredging ropes, fine white fibre yields are 670kg/hectare/per year. (Sansevieria angolensis) Some other species can yield up to 2250kg/hectare/per year.The leaves of Sansevieria roxburghiana from India is the commercial source of murva/moorva fibre which is soft ,silky, pliant and very elastic. Many Sansevieria species and cultivars have strongly patterned leaves which gives rise to the common name of "Snake Plant", and it is known as a snake bite cure in Las Perlas in Central America where it is also cultivated. Folk medicine attributes of this plant abound including one as a cure for baldness though I may need at least a hectare yield to reverse my own !

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