Women of Plants: Jane Rose Lloyd, the Strange Plant Lady

Words by
Lucy Munro
| August 24, 2018

‘We are woman and nature’, writes feminist philosopher Susan Griffin in her book Women and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her. She’s got a point. We’re born of the earth, follow the rhythms of the season, and hold the power to create and sustain life. Perhaps that’s why so many of us are drawn to plants, recognising ourselves in the complex patterns of the natural world. In an ode to obsessive women of plants, we’re introducing you to some of our favourite Instagram plant women. First up is Jane Rose Lloyd, a.k.a. @_strangeplantlady, a horticulturist, rare plant hunter, collector and producer from Melbourne’s outer east.

Jane is a serious plant obsessive, with a collection currently spanning over 200 plants and an encyclopedic understanding of the habits and behaviours of every single one of these. We’re more than a little obsessed with this strange plant lady, and we know you will be too!

Jane Rose Lloyd
A collection of Rhipsalis sp. accompanying a hanging Pilea peperomioides. Image by Jane

How would you describe your relationship with plants? Plants and I (just like everyone else really) have a mutually beneficial relationship. It’s a deep and symbiotic one – like an old tree’s roots, encased and intertwined with mycelium.

Plants keep me fed, breathing and mentally grounded. They quench my insatiable thirst for knowledge like nothing else I’ve ever come across, and they make me feel at home, even when in a concrete jungle.”

In return, I help them increase their numbers, feed and water them and keep them happy. I help others to understand their complex language and needs in the hope of cultivating wider appreciation. And I advocate and fight for their understanding and protection.

What draws you to rare and unusual plants? To me there’s a huge difference between “rare plants” and truly rare species. I much prefer the latter, the ones that are extinct in the wild and can only be found in private collections and botanic gardens. These are the ones that need our help to remain on this earth through conservation in cultivation.

The unusual or strange ones usually get me once I’ve worked out why they look the way they do. Plants appear certain ways because they’ve adapted to particular conditions or developed a mechanism to ensure their survival on this wild earth. I’m always drawn to the unusual methods plants have developed to adapt to their environment and helping them remain on this planet, both virtually unchanged whilst constantly changing.

Can you please tell us about your plant collection. I have been collecting plants for about five years now, and started collecting a number of other things long before I got into tropical and indoor plants. Oxalis was actually the first genus of plants I started collecting, all of which I still have. I don’t keep count of my plants, as so many come and go from selling, trading and deaths. I’m always propagating too, so the figure is constantly in flux. I would probably have around 200 plants at present.

It’s taken me all my years of collecting to work out an easy way to manage so many plants while also managing life outside of them. I’m not quite there yet but I’ve got a pretty good handle, I reckon.”

I’m obsessive when it comes to information so I read, read, read when I get a new plant. I’ve learnt which plants will tolerate me forgetting about them for a period, and which ones I absolutely cannot forget about ever. I’m always learning.

What began your plant obsession? My obsession began during early childhood. My mum worked a lot as a single parent and I spent a lot of time with my Oma, who was a jackette of all trades (nurse, painter, sculptor, sewer, wood worker, traveller) and loved her garden.

I have vivid memories of planting flower seedlings and making garden beds, we even made a maple forest bonsai when I was four or five. She’s also got an excellent Monstera deliciosa growing in her garden.

Plants have always been a central part of my life in some way or other. Part of me thinks it was my destiny to become a horticulturalist.

Foliage of Epipremnum pinnatum. Image by Jane
Colours, patterns and contrasts from a mixed bag including Oxalis, Tillandsia, jewel orchids and devil’s ivy. Image by Jane

What does a day in the life Jane Rose Lloyd entail? I’m currently in the process of starting my own business so things are pretty busy at the moment.

Regardless of where I’m at in life, or what I’m doing, my days tend to start the same way: wake up, make a coffee, mist the jungle until it drips and enjoy my most favourite smell – damp organic matter.”

I spend a bit of time looking through Instagram and online to find new plants and often find myself getting lost in research about plants I want, plants I have, and plants I just got delivered.

At the moment, all my time is being sucked into researching and writing a business plan – very boring stuff. I long to get back to my days of working in a glasshouse – luckily this will be a reality, sooner rather than later. There’s nothing like the moment when hard work pays off, and for me that pay-off is working hard growing plants!

What is the weirdest/most unusual plant in your collection? Many of them are weird in their own ways, but the weirdest and definitely most unusual plant I own would have to be Welwitschia mirabilis. It is endemic to the Namib desert, and is a completely monotipic taxon (Welwitschia is the only genus in the family Welwitschiaceae, with W. mirabilis being the only species in the genus). After the seed germinates and sprouts its two little seed leaves, it produces one pair of true foliage leaves, which are its leaves for life. These two leaves continue to grow continuously (at a very slow rate, mind you) and can reach up to four meters in length. Over time they fray and tear into strap-like sections, further caused by wind and external injury, but it typically stays growing relatively flat on the ground. These incredible plants can live to be over 1,000 years old, with some individuals estimated to be over 2,000 years old!

Who are your favourite insta plant people? Gosh darn it, too many to name! I’ve been so fortunate to meet some truly wonderful people via Instagam.

My best friend in real life who knows a bit of everything about all sorts of plants, Casey: @phyto.diary

My best international plant friend I’ve not yet met, Olena: @theoperatingsystem

A beautiful human I was lucky enough to meet at school who has a seriously enviable collection of plants and pottery, Thomas: @_t__h__o__m__a__s_

The lovely woman who is responsible for some of my most favourite plant creations, Sonia: @witch_plants

One of the most knowledgeable collectors I’ve come across who is pretty much responsible for my miniature orchid obsession, Mick: @mickmitty

If you were a plant, what would you be? This is an excellent question, and definitely the trickiest yet! There are certainly lots of plants I’d like to be, but I think I would have to be an orchid of some sort. Can appear sensitive, and often is, but will hold on to weather the storm. Has been known to drive some people mad, and some fall madly in love. Takes the time to build up to something big, but won’t let you down.

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Follow more of Jane’s plant adventures on Instagram: @_strangeplantlady

Vriesea sp., Sansevieria stuckyi and Spathiphyllum ‘domino’ enjoying an afternoon sunbath. Image by Jane
Blooming Anthurium andreanum. Image by Jane

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