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How to make the most of house plants

s the late winter sun sets, I watch the shadows play out over the living room wall. A set of car headlights illuminates the never-never plant (Ctenanthe oppenheimiana) and it flexes a leaf. It often stretches out its stalk and flips a leaf at the TV: I like to imagine it’s a response to a programme, but it’s just a quirk of its family, the arrowroots (Maranthaceae).

It’s common in arrowroots for the base of the leaf to be swollen into something called a pulvinus – that’s akin to a knee joint, and allows the plant to move independently of growth. The pulvinus allows leaves better to intercept light filtering through to the forest floor of its native home, though I like to think of it as a friendly house plant that waves at you every now and then.

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