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Origin and Habitat: Tanzania, Malawi and Zanzibar.
Habitat: Sansevieria kirkii grows on coral cliff near sea level and form a thick ground cover in many places. The soil is chocolate, friable and good. It blossom during the rain season.
- Sansevieria kirkii Baker
Sansevieria kirkii Baker
Bull. Misc. Inform. Kew 1887: 3 1887
Sansevieria kirkii var. pulchra N.E.Br.
Bull. Misc. Inform. Kew 1915: 256 (1915)
ENGLISH: Bowstring Hemp, Bow-string Hemp, Pangane Sansevieria, Pangane Hemp, Star Sansevieria
Description: Sansevieria kirkii is an unusual species with creeping underground stems from which spring several leaves which can be included in the group with sword-shaped leaves. These leaves are very horny in texture, with a brown undulating edge and much mottled on both sides. The flower is greenish-white, scented, and has a conical inflorescence.
Stem: Sansevieria kirkii is an acaulescent herb with subterranean rhizomes, crowded with scaly leaves.
Leaves: Not more than 1–3(–4) to a tuft, erect or ascending-spreading to upper part recurved or even drooping, oblanceolate or broadly strap-shaped, 45–180 cm long (Under exceptional circumstances a single leaf will attain the length of 2.7 metres), 6–9 cm, broad at the middle, narrowed gradually to 2.5 cm at the base and very rigid, concave to flat in the upper half when mature, channelled in the lower half, 0.8–1.4(-2.5) cm thick at the middle, and with a rounded facial groove at the base, dark green obscurely mottled with white. Margins very wavy a with a narrow, hardened, red-brown marginal line (white in juvenile leaves) often breaking up into thread-like fibres. Apex very rigid to stiffly coriaceous, tipped with a horny spine 0.8–1.3 cm long. Midrib broad, rounded on the back. Petiole 2.5–3.1 cm broad, 3.8 cm thick. Basal scaly leaves membranous, distinctly parallel veined.
Inflorescence: Capitate-corymbose, (25–)37–60 cm long. Peduncle much shorter than the leaves dull purplish brown, 1.3–1.9 cm in diameter, thickly speckled with pale green or dull whitish; lower empty bracts large, ovate or lanceolate, uo to 6 cm long, the upper speckled with dull purplish brown at the tips and gradually smaller, acute, green, suffused with dull purplish brown and dotted with paler brown. Raceme short, dense; flowers about 6 to a bract; pedicels 6-10(-12) mm long, 1.5–2 mm in diameter, not jointed.
Flowers: Erect or ascending, perianth 12-15 cm long green on the back and tips, the rest brownish-pink. Tube purplish or dull pink, 11–12 cm long. Lobes up to 4 cm long spreading, with revolute tips. Stamens as long as the perianth-lobes, filaments about 17cm long, anthers 4–5 mm long. Style 15-16 cm long considerably exserted beyond the lobes.
Fruit: The fruit is a globose berry.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Sansevieria kirkii group
- Sansevieria kirkii Baker: has very horny leaves in texture, with a brown undulating edge and much mottled on both sides. The flower is greenish-white, scented, and has a conical inflorescence. Distribution: anzania, Malawi and Zanzibar.
- Sansevieria kirkii var. pulchra N.E.Br.: has attractive rippled, undulating, dark green leaves, smudged with light green and reddish margins. Very showy white flowers are in rounded clusters that arise on a stout inflorescence from the center of the plant.
- Sansevieria kirkii cv. Silver Blue: has super chunky silver blue foliage patterned with darker longitudinal lines and mottling. The leaves are exceptionally thick and shorter, and seem different from the S. kirkii. Distribution: Mbeya Province, Tanzania.
- Sansevieria kirkii cv. Silver Blue variegata: has chunky mottled silver blue foliage variegated with cremy-yellow longitudinal stripes. Margins are very wavy with a narrow, hardened, red-brown and white marginal line.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) J. G. Baker “Flora of Tropical Africa” Vol 7, page 331 1898
2) Geoffrey Mwachala & Paul Mbugua “Flora of Tropical East Africa” page 1, 2007
3) Nicholas Edward Brown “Sansevieria – a monograph of all the known species (with plates).” In: Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information, Heft 5. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew 1915
4) Peter A. Mansfeld “Alles über Sansevieria – Handbuch über Herkunft, Anzucht und Pflege.” BoD, Hamburg 2012
5) Urs Eggli “Illustrated Handbook of Suculent Plants: Monocotyledons” Springer, 2001
6) Urs Eggli, Leonard E. Newton “Etymological Dictionary of Succulent Plant Names” Birkhäuser 2004
7) National Botanic Gardens Lucknow-India “Sansevieria.” National Botanic Gardens, Lucknow-India 1959
Cultivation and Propagation: Sansevieria kirkii (a.k.a. African bowstring hemp) is one of the slowest of the Sansevierias to grow but easy to cultivate and tolerate a wide range of conditions. It is a very drought tolerant plant, but not as cold hardy as some. It needs heat and dry air in Winter and half shade in Summer. Does best as a pot plant.
Soil: Use a soil mix consisting of 3 parts loam to 1 part of pumice.
Fertilization: They are fertilized once during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer.
Watering Needs: The plants are very drought tolerant and are watered about every other week during the growing season. During the winter months they are watered once a month. Water sparingly and not at all as temperatures dip in winter if growing outdoors - can tolerate going months between watering.
Exposure: Will tolerate low light levels but grows best and flowers if given bright light and even tolerates full sun. Afternoon shade in summer.
Frost Tolerance: Avoid any frost. This species is dormant in winter, keep it at or around 4°C.
Outdoors: In the garden In mild to tropical climates it prefers semi-shade or shade and it is not fussy.
Use: It is a great container plant for interior or exterior use that needs little care. It makes a choice designer's architectural statement. It is popular as an ornamental plant as it is easy to culture and take care of in a home.
Warnings: It is toxic (has oxylates that cause oral and throat irritation) if chewed or eaten.
Propagation: They are propagated by cuttings or by divisions taken at any time. Cuttings should be at least 10 cm long and inserted in moist sand. A rhizome will emerge at the cut edge of the leaf.
Traditional uses: Sansevieria kirkii leaves contain strong, long, leaf fibres which is used by the natives to yield cordage. The robust habit and large size of the leaf of this plant render it very valuable for fibre purposes.
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