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Hattie Wood Sansevieria: A plant from a painting or two...

Dec 6, 2014
Newark, CA
The plant I grow is just an ordinary Sansevieria trifasciata. However, this particular plant has quite a history. The story starts when I read online that Larry Rettig of the University of Iowa (sadly, now deceased), had grown Impatiens namchabarwensis, but lost it. This plant, the blue Impatiens, was recently discovered in the world's deepest canyon:

Impatiens namchabarwensis .jpg

I grow this plant (and have seedlings right now, if there's interest). I offered to send Larry a couple plants. He generously offered to send me a plant which appeared in a painting, and had been passed down for over 90 years. The plant is the Sansevieria in this painting, 'Woman with Plants' by Grant Wood. Pictured is his mother, Hattie Wood:


Larry sent me this plant. Although it was "just" a Sansevieria, I was amazed:

thumbnail_Hattie Wood Sansevieria Oct. 25 2012.jpg

Larry had detailed the descent of this plant up to the point of the one he received, in a book. From Amazon:

thumbnail_Sansevieria from Larry Rettig.jpg .png

So I thought that was really cool, to own a plant that was carefully passed along, and whose history was documented. Larry sent the same "lineage" of the plant to me in an email.

But there's more. Grant Wood included a Sansevieria (and Beefsteak Begonia), just like the first painting, in a second painting a year later. Maybe you've seen this painting:

thumbnail_American Gothic.jpg.png

Enlarging the boxed in region:

thumbnail_Sansevieria and Beefsteak Begonia from Woman with Plants in American Gothic.jpg.png

A biography of Grant Wood a few years ago suggested that Wood actually wanted his mom, not his sister, in American Gothic. I don't remember why he couldn't. Instead, he dressed his sister similarly to his mom in Woman with Plants, and included the Sansevieria and Begonia.

I asked Wood's Biographer if the Sansevieria was the same plant as in the earlier painting--and the one we both grow descendants of. He thought it probably was, but didn't know for sure.

I do propagate this plant occasionally. I just today took a photo of a leaf cutting with offsets. I removed a larger one previously. I counted at least 5 still on the leaf cutting.

Sansevieria plantlets Feb. 18 .jpg

I do have these available from time to time. One friend I gave a plant to is writing a book about Grant Wood.
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