Botanists Discover Houseplant That Can “Outlive Its Owners”

updated Apr 2, 2021
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Plant murderers, frequent vacationers, and basement dwellers all share a similar problem: They can’t seem to keep a plant alive. Earlier today, the Ohio League of Botanists released a statement that will make small space residents rejoice: A new varietal of houseplant is expected to live upwards of 300 years with minimal care.

Professionally known as Otiosum Folium, Latin for “lazy leaf,” the botanists have taken to calling it “Otie” for short. The plant is result of hybrid breeding — where several different seeds and plants are cross-pollinated over long periods of time to create new species that are often sturdier than their multiple parent lines. Farmers have done this for years to produce better yields of crops under various agricultural conditions. 

Otie is a result of a lab in Columbus, Ohio, and a hybrid breeding project that has gone on for almost 15 years. Lead researcher Herbert Basilia has been working on the project with a team of four, and said he first came to the idea when his wife accused him of murdering all of her plants when she went on a “girls’ trip” to Florida for the weekend.

“I swear to her that I watered them,” Basilia said in a statement. “But she didn’t believe me. And I just didn’t understand how these “low-maintenance” plants could have gone south in just a few days. So I set out to create a plant that could exist in even the tiniest closet of an apartment, with basically no nutrients, and still outlive its owner.”

The first potted Otie plant, which accompanied the team to the press conference, is a small but sturdy looking houseplant with dull, triangular leaves and a thick center stalk. No budding flowers are evident at the moment, which means that “plant care remains consistent year-round.” According to researchers, Otie was co-bred with palm fronds, pine tree bark, baking soda, and Bed Bath and Beyond 20 percent off coupons. 

“The coupons were added late, but ended up being what really took Otie’s lifespan to the next level,” said Basilia. “They never expire, and now, neither does Otie.”

Otie’s gray leaves might not complement your bookshelf as nicely as a vibrant fiddle leaf fig, but because those same dull leaves don’t need sunlight, you can stick Otie anywhere: In your fridge, in the cabinet next to your crumbling stack of Tupperware, or even under your bed to help liven up the space. 

Animal-lovers can rejoice — Otie is not toxic to cats, dogs, or birds, and in fact, the leaves can withstand biting, licking, or pecking from any domestic pet. In fact, the sturdy center stalk is an ideal replacement for a cat’s scratching post. Otie can also absorb liquids you’re not keen on sending down your disposal — hot oil, milk soiled by cereal, or expired orange juice are all fine replacements for water when it comes to caring for Otie. 

Otie requires no soil, but you can surround the stalk with whatever you’d usually throw in a junk drawer. Pack the small pot with scissors, paper clips, three-feet-long CVS receipts or unpaired socks. Think of Otie as both a houseplant and a small-space storage solution.

You can expect to see Otie in your local plant shop on April Fools Day, 2021. Happy April Fools!