PLANT MENOPAUSE - HILARIOUS NOTION or INTERESTING FACT?
As avid gardeners, we are always on a quest to create a lovely, green indoor environment, one lovely and diverse houseplant at a time. This way we can satisfy our itchy green thumbs during the long Manitoba winters.
A number of years ago, I was thrown into menopause at a relatively young age, due to an inherited medical condition. Leaving my dear husband to brave this new adventure right along with me. (He’s a trooper, I think I’ll keep him.)
As part of this new adventure, we are creating a beautiful home. Our main focus at the moment is the renovation of our main washroom but interaction with nature, whether indoor or out, remains a constant for us.
PLANT MENOPAUSE, REALLY?
On our dining room table, we have one big, beautiful houseplant, in particular. A spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum). Darren has kept this thing alive for 20 years, which is a feat in and of itself. Recently, we noticed that it is no longer sprouting offspring. Darren offered that it’s probably in menopause too. Did I mention he’s also cheeky?
This idea piqued my curiosity, though. Do plants, in fact, experience a mid-life change of some sort, similar to animals?
I fired up Google for some research and actually found it difficult to find any discussion on the aging of a houseplant. Specifically, in relation to their reproductive or propagative abilities. That does make sense from the standpoint that not all plants reproduce the same way.
With some plants, age is not a factor at all given their short life span. With that comes a short period of reproductive opportunities such as with annuals. The results list was full of human reproductive abilities at different ages though. Not necessary, already pretty well versed in that. Ha!
According to Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist at gardeningknowhow.com “It’s awkward to use the tale of the birds and the bees in mammalian relations to describe plant life cycles, but useful at the same time. Spider plants need to be old enough to have these spider-like growths. What age is appropriate for getting spiderettes on plants? “
I learned that while plants and animals are different biological organisms, a houseplant must also be mature enough for reproduction. Naturally, the time it takes for a plant to reach the age of maturity depends on the type of plant. However, a freshly germinated seedling of any plant doesn’t yet have the reproductive capabilities to produce fruit, flowers or anything else. Just as a very young animal or human, for that matter, does not within its own unique reproductive system.
This definitely shed some light on the fertility stages of various plants. But what about when plants arrive at the end of that stage, if at all?
Based on what I’ve read, a plant’s ability to propagate more depends on its environment than it’s age. Such turned out to be the case with our lovely spider plant.
Bonnie continues… “In the absence of an age issue, if it is several years old and you still see no babies on a spider plant, you may want to examine the conditions in which it is growing.”
It seems that a spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is in maternal high gear in its early stages. Sending out arms loaded with baby plants, and these babies, in time, can produce offspring of their own. Kind of sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
The plant owner may be left wondering what happened when this process seems to stop. Just like we did. Interestingly enough, spider plants are affected by changing seasonal light levels. The plant’s exposure to this light change is important to promote the biological changes necessary to flower and produce offspring. If they aren’t in a part of your home where the light changes with the seasons, the plant may stop producing offspring altogether.
In the end, my research for this post has produced three new points of perspective. One, I now understand how to ‘inspire’ our dear spider plant to again produce offspring. Two, plants do go through their own reproductive stages not entirely unlike our own, and three, the combination of similarities and diversities in all living things on Earth are what make our home planet the beautiful and wonderous biosphere that it is.
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Interacting with the Earth is one of our most primal instincts. In this age of technology and industry, its critical that we nurture that instinct for our own health and well-being. The more you grow, the more YOU grow.