I’m basically a 21st century Darwin (with zero botanical education and a spending problem)

Many of us have different aspects of keeping houseplants that we enjoy. For some, it’s the soothing, repetitive tasks that serve as a lovely form of meditation of relaxation therapy. For others, it’s the pride in having taken care of a living thing and watching it grow.

I fall into both of these categories, but I’m also driven by the 18th century obsessed botanist hidden inside me. I love the chase. I’m sure most of us have a wish list sitting somewhere— usually fuelled by an afternoon spent scrolling through instagram with envy. Mine started as a whimsical list of plants I’d like to add to the collection one day, but has turned into more of a personal check— I can’t let myself buy a plant unless it is physically on the wish list. As my collections nears the 60 mark, I have to be a little more choosy in my plant purchases lest my husband leave me I run out of space. I often break my own rule.

Now, I’m not out exploring the tropics, naming species after myself. I humbly shop my local nurseries and hardware stores in hopes of discovering a plant that’s popular in the trendy cities of Toronto or New York. Yesterday, I was able to cross off a wish list plant. I also brought one home that was not on the wish list. Whoops.

We’ll start with the sanctioned purchase: A Calathea White Fusion. If you’ve ever stumbled across this beauty on instagram or facebook, you’ll know at least part of why it made the list. It has beautiful narrow leaves with green and white markings, made even more stunning by the rich purple backs. Calatheas are a part of the Marantaceae Family, commonly referred to as ‘Prayer Plants’. Yup. She’s a dancer. The leaves lift at night (bringing their leaves together as if in prayer) and lie down during the day to catch the sunlight. Another one of the limitations I’ve put on myself to stop an overflow of plants is to limit the types of plants that I collect. I keep my focus now on Marantaceae and Araceae families, and the genera Peperomia and Ficus. I know if doesn’t sound very limiting, but believe me, there are so many other routes one could take, and luckily, living in Canada does put a damper on collecting Tropicals of any kind, so one should keep their options somewhat open, I believe.

So, the rules work as follows: I walk into a nursery, and have a browse. First priority goes to wish list plants. So in the case of my last visit, the White Fusion was scooped up instantly. (I got the last one *smug*). Then, an aroid caught my eye— it was a… well, I didn’t know what it was. It was labeled Jade Philodendron.

Now, I’m no expert, but I was relatively sure it wasn’t a philodendron. There were no leaf sheaths on the vine and the leaf shape reminded me of my Scindapsus Pictus “Silver Satin” at home.

The Silver Satin I had picked up to complete my Pothos collection.

Now my head started to ache.

A google search did very little to help. What I had purchased seemed to be a “Jade Satin Pothos” but it wasn’t a Pothos at all. I put out feelers on Instagram and reddit to see if we could get an ID, but not much came up. I’ve settled on Scindapsus Pictus “Jade Satin”. My theory behind this is that it doesn’t have sheaths on the vines like philodendrons typically do, and has a more robust, leathery leaf. In direct comparison with my Silver Satin, I’d say there is a striking resemblance. The weight and texture of the leaf is comparable, as is the thickness and shape of the vine. In fact, the Jade just looks like a Silver who lost its spots.

It was the mystery that really drew me to this purchase. The 19th century botanist rose up and had to identify and classify the plant in question. Since I already had one of the species that I suspected it belonged to, it only made sense to bring it home for comparative scientific purposes. Since the internet had very little to offer on the subject, I felt a bit cutting edge as I discussed the characteristics compared to similar species and what did or didn’t fit with our hypothesis.

Anyway, the Scindapsus was a bit of an impulse buy (for science!) but still fit within my parameters for purchasing plants as it was from one of the families I’ve deemed acceptable to impulse buy from. In total, I spent about $50, which about caps me out for spending for this week and the next, because while my rules do seem quite broad, I do put a limit on total dollars spent so I don’t spend myself silly.

I’m glad I have these rules in place, but I’m also glad I’ve given myself some wiggle room, because I had a lot of fun in the last day or so discovering a new plant and learning about what makes it similar or different to other species within its genera and family. It’s that Victorian explorer excitement that keeps this hobby fun and interesting, and I don’t want to dampen the joy I get from it just because “I shouldn’t buy more plants”.

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