Odd isn’t it … there are so many objections to various perceptions of relationships and gender in today’s society, yet no-one has given a thought to the much maligned – butt of many jokes – general name for the Sanseviera plants: mother-in-law’s tongue!

Let us leave that to the activists and focus on these tough plants that are true survivors of the drought. I think the plants in my garden are Sansevieria hyacinthoides as they look very similar to the plants I have seen growing in the shade of trees in the Addo Elephant National Park, and which are common all over the eastern part of South Africa.

Blooming in the natural thicket at Spekboom Hide in the Addo Elephant National Park

According to, the genus Sansevieria is named after Pietro Sanseverino (1724-1771), Prince of Bisignano, who grew these plants, among other rare and exotic specimens, in his garden near Naples. Further information found at reveals that the discoverer of this plant, Vincenzo Petanga, wanted this plant named after Pietro Antonio Sansevierino, but Carl Thunberg named it after Raimondo di Sangro (1710-1771) an Italian nobleman, inventor, soldier, writer and scientist. The mystery of plant naming continues.

The specific name hyacinthoides means resembling a hyacinth – referring to the large creamy-white flowers with their recurved, thread-like flower segments.

In my garden

What is most striking about these plants are their long, linear leaves, often mottled with light green contrasting horizontal markings. Their flowers do not last for very long. It is nonetheless interesting watching them develop. The following pictures were taken in the Addo Elephant National Park:

Still green and tightly bound


Opening up


10 thoughts on “MOTHER-IN-LAW’S TONGUE

  1. Ek het nog nooit die blom van hierdie plant gesien nie, al het ek die plant al baie gesien. Dis nou baie interessant, dankie! Ek hou ook nie van die Afrikaanse naam nie…lekker diskriminerend teenoor goeie skoonma’s soos ek! 😄


    • Hierdie plante bloei nie elke seisoen nie, maar wel wanneer die plante gestres word. Die droogte is seker ‘n deel van hierdie stres (jammer, my Afrikaans is nie so goed nie!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Niks fout met jou Afrikaans nie! Dis nou interessant…as dit droog is voel hulle seker dis noodsaaklik om te blom, sodat hulle kan voortplant met saad. Andersins druk mens mos sommer ‘n blaar in die grond en dit maak self wortels.


  2. The poor old mother-in-law is much maligned- and thinking of the spiny cactus plants known as mother-in-law seats! I’ve never seen the ‘tongues’ flowering – so delicate. What a hardy plant to withstand drought conditions. Eliza’s comment interesting too – sequestering carbon dioxide.


    • ‘Mother-in-law seat’ is a new one for me – looked it up: very spiky indeed! Our Sanseveria blooms very intermittently, with several years in between. That is why I wondered if the prolonged drought has something to do with it.


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