Chinese Money Plant

there are certain plants that continue to pop up in beautifully styled homes in magazines or blogs or instagram. first it was the delicious monster, then it was the fiddle leaf fig, and now it’s the Chinese Money Plant aka Pilea peperomioides. this is probably the most interesting one of them all, not just in looks but also because of the amazing story behind it.

the unusual little plant started popping up in households all over Britain in the seventies, which puzzled botanists as the species had not even been officially identified. eventually they traced the origin of the plant to a range of mountains in the Yunnan province of China. but HOW did it get to Britain? how indeed. in 1983 the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew published a newspaper article asking if anyone had any leads on the introduction of the plant, to which a family from Cornwall called the Sidebottoms (you can’t make this up) answered. their au pair Modil Wigg was from Norway, and their daughter Jill who had holidayed with the Wigg family had brought a plant home with her sometime in the 1960s. so, that traces the routes to Scandinavia, but HOW did it get there? turns out…

A Norwegian missionary, Agnar Espegren, brought the plant to Norway from China in 1946. In 1944 the Norwegian missionaries in China had had to leave. Agnar Espegren and his family, then living in Hunan province, were taken by an American plane to Kunming in Yunnan where they stayed about a week awaiting further transport to India. During this brief stay in Kunming Mr Espegren obtained a live specimen of the plant (possibly from a local market) and packed it in a small box, which was then brought together with his family and all their baggage to Calcutta where they stayed for nearly a year. The Espegren family arrived back in Norway in March 1946 with the plant miraculously still alive. Mr Espegren subsequently travelled widely in Norway and often gave basal shoots of the plant to friends. In this way the plant was effectively distributed around Norway where it is now widespread as a window sill plant, and where it is known as ‘the missionary plant’.

well, i suppose we must all thank Agnar Espegren, and 9-year-old Jill Sidebottom, for making this sweet little plant a still flourishing part of window sills all over Europe. i hope that i can find one in South Africa somewhere… anyone have any leads for me feel free to direct them my way (or i might be forced to publish a newspaper article).

photo by Mieke Verbijlen

photo by Mieke Verbijlen

photos by Frida Ramstedt for Trendenser

photos by Frida Ramstedt for Trendenser

photos by Bart Kiggen for All Items Loaded

photos by Bart Kiggen for All Items Loaded

photos by Amanda Wright

photos by Amanda Wright

photo by Belle Fleur de lis

photos by Belle Fleur de Lis

photo by Lisettes Perler

photo by Lisettes Perler

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  • Reply Iwona Tuesday 26 November, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    I really like your blog! It is very interesting:) I would like to show you my illustrations http://fabricandcolor.com/my-illustrations/ and If you get a second, I’d love to hear your thoughts on topic my illustrations: ) I greet: ) Iwona

  • Reply Gracie Tuesday 26 November, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Lovely little thing

  • Reply tea-in-tangiers Tuesday 26 November, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    what a wonderful story behind such an unassuming plant!

  • Reply Megan Tuesday 26 November, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    What a lovely little plant!

  • Reply maggie Tuesday 26 November, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    These are gorgeous! I was just thinking I need a new plant – thanks for pointing me in the right direction!

  • Reply Celine Tuesday 26 November, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    I have always wanted one of these in my house! Perfectly shaped leaves that are spaced out so well! Looks pretty tough so it’s hard to kill!

  • Reply Kathy o Tuesday 26 November, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Dear MM,
    Here in Belgium, you can not buy this great plant.
    it’s a tradition to give one to somebody you really like (friends/family).
    When you receive one, you ought to multiply them, so you can give this new plants away!
    Kathy O

    • Reply Miss Moss Wednesday 27 November, 2013 at 6:39 am

      that’s so interesting! thanks for sharing ;)

  • Reply Ginta Tuesday 26 November, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    I have it too. It’s funny plant. I got my seedling from a friend who got it from a friend. :) First I thought the plant is rare as I hadn’t seen it anywhere before but turns out it’s pretty common. Thank you very much for sharing the story!

  • Reply elana Wednesday 27 November, 2013 at 12:28 am

    Love it. You’re so on the money. oops /

  • Reply charlotte | the vintage vogue Wednesday 27 November, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    I had seen them in Ikea some years ago and thought they were interesting but didn’t pay too much mind to them. over the summer I took a trip to Bermuda and they were EVERYWHERE. suddenly, in what I though was their native habitat, they were glorious and unmistakeable. they are most certainly one of my favorite greens.

  • Reply Mandy Thursday 28 November, 2013 at 3:33 am

    LOVE money plants. Haven’t had one for years, but they really are beautiful!

  • Reply erica Thursday 28 November, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    I don’t know if it’s legal to ship plants to other countries, but there are a few for sale on ebay: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Chinese-money-plant-pilea-peperomides-/181267546520?pt=UK_HomeGarden_Garden_PlantsSeedsBulbs_JN&hash=item2a34634198#vi-desc-maincntr

    It’s such a lovely plant!

  • Reply Michelle Saturday 30 November, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    Those look like a variation of a plant I’ve seen called pepperoni plants. I’m familiar with money trees and have one off these: http://www.hisupplier.com/product-69021-Potted-plant-Pachira-macrocarpa-Money-Tree/

  • Reply Bellefleurdelis Monday 9 December, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    i can always try to send you up a babypilea…
    will it survive ?

    • Reply Carol b Monday 23 June, 2014 at 2:41 am

      It’s such a lovely plant. I’m in Singapore and I can’t find this plant too. Can you send me a cutting? :)

  • Reply Kelly Monday 23 December, 2013 at 10:54 am

    Hi There,

    Did you have any luck finding one of these in South Africa? I’m in Melbourne, Australia and I can’t find it anywhere! The only place I’ve found it is in the Royal Botanical Gardens. I’m so tempted to snatch a cutting of it! Hehe!

  • Reply Nicky Page Thursday 30 January, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    Hi Diana
    did you have any luck finding this plant in cape town? I would love to know where, if you did.
    Many thanks, Nicky
    P.S your blog rocks

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