Mother-in-law's tongue

Native to Nigeria, mother-in-law's tongue is an upright, succulent plant.

A popular garden species, it is easily spread through dumping of garden waste. Bushland infestations of mother-in-law's tongue can crowd out low-growing native plants.

Mother-in-law's tongue is not a prohibited or restricted invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Scientific name

Sansevieria trifasciata

Other names

  • Snake plant, bowstring hemp, good luck plant

Description

  • Upright, succulent plant up to 60cm tall.
  • Leaves are stiff, lance-shaped, 0.6–1.2m long, dark green with mottled grey-green and yellow.
  • Flowers are small, tubular, cream to green, 25–30mm long, carried on spike.
  • Fruit are small, round, orange berries, 7–9mm in diameter.
  • Seeds are pale brown, oblong, 6–7mm long, 5mm wide.
  • Rhizomes are bright orange, thick, fleshy, succulent.

Habitat

  • Prefers well drained soils in shady areas, but will tolerate dry periods.
  • Found along roadsides and in gardens, disturbed areas, riparian vegetation.

Distribution

  • Common throughout eastern Queensland.

Life cycle

  • Flowers mostly during spring and summer.

Impacts

Environmental

  • Forms dense infestations, preventing regeneration of native plants in bushland and eventually forming monoculture.

How it is spread

  • Rhizomes spread in dumped garden waste
  • Seeds spread by birds and other animals.

Control

Physical control

  • Carefully dig out isolated plants and small infestations, making sure to remove all roots and fragments.
  • This requires persistent effort, regular site monitoring, and removal of any new growth and its rhizome.

Herbicide control

  • No herbicide currently registered; however, an off-label use permit exists (PER11463).

See the Mother-in-law's tongue fact sheet (PDF, 115KB) for herbicide control and application rates.

Biological control

  • No known biological control agents.

Legal requirements

  • Mother-in-law's tongue is not a prohibited or restricted invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014. However, by law, everyone has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with invasive plants under their control.
  • Local councils must have a biosecurity plan that covers invasive plants in their area. This plan may include actions to be taken on Mother-in-law's tongue. Some of these actions may be required under local laws. Contact your local council for more information.

Further information