Does S. 'Congo' = S. 'Mason's Congo' = S. masoniana?

mark4321_gwFebruary 17, 2013


I just bought a Sansevieria labeled Sansevieria 'Congo' and I'm curious whether anyone thinks it's different than S. masoniana, also known as S. 'Mason's Congo'.

Luckily just a couple weeks ago I was very generously given an order from Logee's that included a plant labeled "Sansevieria masoniana 'Mason's Congo', so I can directly compare the two. I'm not used to looking at Sansevierias but I don't see a difference. If anyone can, or thinks there is a lookalike or hybrid with the shorter name of S. 'Congo', I would be curious.

Here are the two side-by-side. The Logee's plant was damaged in transit. A small leaf was broken off, and a larger one was twisted loose and eventually rooted a bit. I turned that into a leaf cutting, which I've included in the comparison.

I bought the new plant at a nursery in Santa Cruz, CA. called DIG Gardens. I've found a number of really nice plants there, always at great prices. The density of interesting plants there per square foot is extraordinary. The Sansevieria 'Congo' was $16, compared to the Logee's plant which says $19 on the price tag. I don't think the Logee's plant was overpriced, just that this was a great deal.

The employee who was helping me was hypercompetent and very helpful. Even he was not able to track down whether the plant they had received as S. 'Congo' was the same as S. masoniana/'Mason's Congo'. So I can't fault the nursery about any ambiguity regarding the name.

I am curious why the plant seems to have grown into a larger clump instead of growing taller. Or did they put multiple plants in a pot (as seems a little too common), or is it an artifact of the propagation?

I've also seen larger plants locally, for example this one a few weeks ago at Golden Nursery in San Mateo (a little closer to me). I don't remember the size of the pot (2-5 gallons, definitely at least 2). This was a big plant, and you can probably see the price ($40) was as well.

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Hi Mark! Looks like you have some variegation on the first plant! Really nice!

If they stay this size Mark then they're probably Masais.

My guess is that Masoniana/ Mason's Congo/Congo are all the same plant and I believe they all grow tall while Masai stays short.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 12:49PM
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bonsaigai(NY Zone 6)

Hi Mark,

Your questions are quite valid.

Congo, Mason's Congo, masoniana all appear to be masoniana. However, there is also grandis and a few other synonyms. Some people say grandis is a dwarf form of masoniana. In cultivation, depending on growing environment, one can be larger or only a little larger. Certainly, it may be the same plant... or not. I have a masoniana that is nearly 4 feet tall.

Regardless, you got a GREAT plant from DIG.

Interlaken NY Z6

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 2:34PM
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Hi Micheal! Thank you for bringing up Grandis. It came to my mind after I sent the post. These might also be Grandis, but if they stay this short they wouldn't be, right? I think that Grandis grows taller than Masai, but stays smaller than Masoniana. Also the leaves are narrower than a Masoniana's, I believe.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 6:04PM
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bonsaigai(NY Zone 6)

Hey LMS,

Oh boy... that's a good point too. I'm not really that familiar with Masai, but I THINK it's a cultivar selection of either what was grandis or is masoniana. I believe they all have been sunk into masoniana. Like all the trifasciata cultivars, it's all one species, but with different cultivar names. I'd have to check that out on the Kew list or other such sources. Having little time to do that right now, it may not happen for a few months.

Interlaken NY Z6

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 7:14AM
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Hi Micheal! Great! If you decide to look up more info on it, let us know what you find!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 10:31AM
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I was lead to believe that 'MAaon Congo' had been changed to a Latin name of S. masoniana. 'MAson's Congo' was the oldest name given,Mason was the man that found it in the Congo and in 10 years it may change again. Plants when found in the wild are given a temporty name of where found and who found it. Kew Gardens had one 8+ft tall. so it may be the space given it to grow. I have one in a container, variegated and it is very short but leaves very wide, I also have one from Hawaii, taller with a crease down the middle of the leaf. I believe plants are like people all sizes shapes and colors. The more I see the less I know. Norma

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 8:37PM
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Thanks everyone for the input.

It sounds like the consensus is the S. masoniana is the correct species name, but that whether S. 'Congo' = S. 'Mason's Congo' is unclear, as is the issue of whether this is one of the very large growing varieties/clones. Someone please correct me if I got any of this wrong.

Obviously it needed a new pot. I'm not sure if this was wise or not, but I gave it nine new pots. I should have paid more attention during the process as to exactly how many plants it appeared to be. It was clearly more than one plant, put together in the pot. That is what I expected.

I assume the rhizome piece (lower left) might eventually form a new plant. This has been lying dry for a couple days. I'll add soil and follow its progress as well.

I'm essentially going to leave these alone for a few months and see what happens. I gave a couple larger pots, but I don't have room for a lot of big pots. I haven't watered them yet, and I assume I should approach watering cautiously, particularly while it's cool.

My growing area is highly protected and so far is frost-free, even during the freezes which hit California in January. Based on very limited local damage it's clear that I'm actually in zone 10, probably 10a. I'm fairly near the Bay and also at the base of the hills, which creates an interesting microclimate.

So I'm going to keep the plants outside, once the current period of 50s/30s passes. It should be mostly 60s/70s and 40s at night for the next couple months, warming up mostly to the 70s/50s in the summer. I assume this is a favorable climate for these guys. Half of my small growing area is rain protected, and I'll put them there. It might be fun to stick one in the ground, but my space is limited (and it's probably not wise to do that while it's still the rainy season).

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 11:33PM
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bonsaigai(NY Zone 6)

Norma is correct. Mason's Congo is S. masoniana.

After looking through a few sites (Kew, IPNI, TROPICOS) the general consensus is that grandis is hyacinthiflora. (I want to see the DNA study on that one. Personally, I don't like that conclusion.)

When dealing with common names, people change them at a whim. Slight variation with the species, and someone wants to give it a name. Ugh. Congo, Mason's Congo, Masai, Whale Fin, and others all deal with masoniana. Some MAY be true cultivars, but others are re-naming of an already existing common name. Unfortunately, it happens all the time.

Mark, keep the plants warm. They can tolerate periods of low temperature, but they do not like it and cold can injure especially younger plants. Under 50 is too cold. Some people say under 60 is too cold. That would be true for certain species, trifasciata the like. I've injured plants just this past season from temperatures in the 40's. Your watering assumptions are correct, keep them dry for a week or two.

As for repotting, you will find that plants will attain a more mature status when given time to establish without division. A masoniana a person gave me was set back when it was divided to fit it into a decorative pot. The leaves are half the size as they were before cutting. This is not to say that plants will be set back when simply moved into another pot or larger quarters.

Your little rhizome piece will take time, but it will likely produce another plant within a year. Mine took about 10 months to put up a new growth, but then again, I live where there is only a five month growing season.

Interlaken, NY Z6

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 7:43AM
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Hi Norma!I agree with you, the more I see too the less I know!

Mark, they're looking great! I think you're right! It's a mix!

Thanks for the info Micheal!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 12:39PM
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Michael - WORD about the dividing/repotting thing! Years of constantly dividing my "Mason's Congo Giant" resulted in teeny plants in the neighborhood of a foot tall, nowhere near the massive size of their parent plant. I unintentionally kept a fischeri in immature form for close to a decade by doing the same. *facepalm* Everyone to whom I gave cuttings had mature leaves in a year or two, but not me :D

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 1:35PM
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bonsaigai(NY Zone 6)

I agree. My masoniana was really set back when it got divided before I got it. That WON'T happen again. Poor thing has to recover now.

My fischeri is just beginning to show mature growth. It's only 16" tall, but I'm hoping for a bit taller growth this summer.

Interlaken NY Z6

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 3:17PM
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