A Consideration: Pothos

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) – also known as Devil’s ivy, money plant, or taro vine – is one of the most common house plants in the world. It is so popular we hardly think of it – it blends into the background. But what is its nature? What lessons might it have?

Believed to have originated on the Polynesian island of Mo’orea, it is now naturalized across the world. The form usually kept by humans is the juvenile vine that needs hardly any sunlight and stays green even under fluorescent lighting.

A human home is similar to the mouth of a cave. So the plants that thrive in that environment are often deep understory plants from forests. These plants can make do with never fully seeing the sun, living on reflected or filtered light and growing in soil or water. (How lunar.)

Pothos is easily propagated from cuttings. I view this as a Saturnian form of reproduction that neither trusts wind or flying animals to pollinate it (Mercury) nor does it require any relationship (Venus) with another of its kind. Instead, perennials trust in themselves.

Pothos does have a solar form: when it is mature, it grows up a tree until it is high enough to see the sun. In these circumstances, the leaves grow to be nearly 2’ across (versus staying ~2-8” indoors) and it can reach 60' in height.

Yet another fascinating aspect of pothos is that, even in these conditions, it almost never flowers. Since the 1960s, only one spontaneous fluorescence has been documented. Normally, it requires artificial inducement because it possesses a genetic mutation that hinders flowering.

And what of its uses? Pothos is one of the best air purifying plants, efficiently removing airborne toxins. (There is even a ‘transgenic’ variety that performs 900% better – and glows.) However, it is also toxic: it contains calcium oxalate which irritates the skin and mouth.

So, I see in pothos a wonderful, but complex companion. It is a mixture of Jupiterian abundance – it can cover a park in a season – and Saturnian self-reliance. This is certainly a powerful combination, but it cares little for the plight of other plants, often overwhelming them.

Pothos holds within it a protective toxin to drive others away but also works to cleanse and improve its environment. In this way, I think, it also holds the duality of the defensive Mars and the purifying Venus principles.

Finally, its ability to live forever in near dark, taking nourishment from the earth or water, also suggests that pothos has a strongly chthonic nature. Its vining nature reminds me of the sacred serpent, often associated with Gaia.

Let us not take pothos for granted.

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