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Calathea Musaica: Nature’s Great Masterpiece

Calathea Musaica
Image source: Flickr

Take a look at this wonderful creation of nature and tell me you don’t want it by your nightstand! This marvelous plant you see is called Calathea Musaica, also known as Goeppertia kegeljanii. Calathea is a genus belonging to the Marantaceae family of plants.

Species of the Calathea family are found in the lowland tropical forests of Asia, Africa, and America. This particular species has broad, papery leaves and can grow about 2 feet tall.

A mosaic
Image source: Flickr

The patterns on Calathea Musaica almost look like they are painted with a pointy brush. That’s exactly where the name Calathea Musaica comes from.

Musaica means mosaic, i.e., an intricate, decorative pattern. The leaves have a pattern of green lines crisscrossed with yellow ones. The yellow color comes from additional pigments.

Calathea Musaica
Image source: Wikimedia

Calathea and its kin are also called prayer-plants. Why? That’s another adorable habit of this plant.

The leaves of Calathea Musaica fold-up during the night and unfurl in the morning, searching for the sun. This movement is not even subtle. You can actually hear the rustle of the leaves after sundown.

Aesthetic benefits aside, this plant even breaks down toxins in the atmosphere. Leaves with loopy patterns absorb more carbon dioxide in the air. Hence, Calathea is not all looks.

It also acts as a natural air purifier. Moreover, it is not at all toxic, so it is totally okay to have pets around.

Now, let’s look at what you need to do if you want to keep one of these in your collection.

Light

You might have come across a Calathea Musaica in windows, homes, offices, lobbies or indoor gardens. All these places have one thing in common- less contact with sunlight. Calatheas grow in jungles in their native lands. They are usually shadowed by larger trees growing close together.

Calatheas in a window with dappled light
Image source: https://www.blogger.com/

That’s because these lovely patterns on Calathea Musaica might fade out if you expose them to direct sunlight. So, if you buy one, the best thing to do is put it in some other place with dappled light.

You can put it in a north-facing window. You can plant it in your backyard such that bigger plants will roof over it.

Water

This decorative delight comes at a cost- you need to water it just right. Small and regular amounts- that’s how Calathea Musaica likes it! During summer, you need to water it as soon as you see the surface starting to dry up. Ensure that the soil is moist, but that doesn’t mean you should let the plant stand in water.

Basically, Calathea Musaica needs draining soil that allows water to percolate. The water shouldn’t pool around the stem. If that happens, the roots could be deprived of oxygen. So, you might want to steer clear of over-watering, especially during the monsoon and cooler seasons.

Also, don’t hesitate to love and pamper your plant. Wipe the leaves with a wet cloth so that dust doesn’t accumulate. The dust can clog its pores and cause wilting. Now, you must be thinking of taking it further and using leaf shine, but it is best not to use chemicals on this one.

Fertilizers

The only time Calathea needs fertilizers is during the flowering/ growing season. A nitrogen-rich foliage fertilizer, given in weakly doses, is enough. Steer clear of feeding during winter!

Temperature

When it comes to temperature, 15 to 21 degrees celsius is just right. Anything below 10 degrees celsius is not wise. Calathea Musaica thrives in a ventilated space with a fairly stable temperature.

Humidity

Calathea Musaica is one high maintenance homebody. The plant thrives in high humidity, and it throws tantrums when you don’t give it that. Inadequate humidity is the number one reason for the wilting of Calathea plants.

If the climate around you is arid, you might want to be extra careful. If you have a small garden, you can place them close together. When plants take in carbon, they lose water. Snuggled up like this, all of them can remain warm and moist.

Calathea Musaica
Image source: Flickr

If you don’t have many plants, you can try using a pebble tray. All you have to do is take a shallow tray, put some pebbles, pour water until the pebbles slightly peak out over the surface, and place your potted plant in the midst of them.

Or, you could try misting them twice or thrice a week. Misting is basically spraying water from a misting pump. You just have to make sure that your water doesn’t have visible impurities floating around, and you’re good to go!

Calathea Musaica
Image source: Wikimedia

If your Calathea is really, really cranky, you can go ahead and buy a humidifier. A humidifier is an electronic device that can be used for a room or an entire building, depending on the humidifier type. For your plant, you can buy the ones that look like small containers. Better yet, you can plant it in a bottle garden.

That means, instead of potting the plant, you plant it inside a glass or plastic container. Plants usually thrive well inside enclosed containers as long as they are open from the top, and the place is well lit.

The Mosaic on the Leaf

Calathea Musaica
Image source: Nsetropicals

Maybe you are wondering, where does this breathtaking mosaic come from? What’s so special about this plant? The answer is not that simple. If we want to find out why a plant looks the way it does, we need to dig into the evolutionary processes that the species has gone through.

In simple words, we need to study the place of origin of this plant. We have to think, how are the climatic conditions in that region? How does the plant respond to them?

What purpose do the features of this plant serve, and so on? Not many scientific studies are available on this particular species. So, it is hard to conclude.

Calathea and Kin:

The Calathea family has so many members that counting them will tire you out. Like seriously, there’s almost three hundred of them. So, let’s look at some of the most amazing types of Calathea!

Calathea Gandersii

Calathea Musaica
Image source: Bioactiveherps.co.uk

Calathea gandersii hails from a country called Ecuador in Southern America. It grows well in tropical and subtropical forests that have a humid climate. Not a lot is known about this species. Moreover,  the International Union of Nature Conservation (IUNC) has declared this species to be a vulnerable one, i.e., likely to be endangered.

Peacock Calathea

Calathea Musaica
Image source: Wikimedia

At first glance, you can tell that the leaves of Calathea makoyana totally deserve to be called the peacock plant. The striking resemblance with peacock feathers and the bright purple underside makes it one of its kind prettiest.

Calathea makoyana hails from eastern Brazil. It has befriended several foreign climates, including the UK. For that, it has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Green Merit.

The peacock plant leaves are sensitive to fluoride that might be present in the water coming from your watering can. So, maybe you can collect rainwater or use distilled water without fluoride for this one.

Calathea Orbifolia

Calathea Musaica
Image source: Wikimedia

Calathea orbifolia, also known as Goeppertia orbifolia, is a species native to Bolivia. It is also known as round-leaf Calathea because of the curvy shape of its leaves. At first glance, the leaf looks like it is green in color, and the stripes are just a trick of the light.

Actually, the leaf has a cream color, and green stripes form the patterns. The leaf grows to a width of at least 30 centimeters. These large, gleaming leaves are the reason why Calathea Oribifolia is trending as a house plant.

Furry Feather Calathea

Calathea Musaica
Image source: Wikimedia

The botanical name of Furry Feather Calathea is Calathea rufibarba. It is also called Velvet Calathea due to the fur-like texture of the undersides of its leaves. The leaf’s topside is green and smooth, while the underside is red and fluffy with little hairs on it.

Calathea Picturata

Calathea Musaica

Calathea picturata hails from northwestern Brazil. Its leaves’ exotic look comes from the shade of silver on the midriff and along the veins. In some varieties, the color is crimson with a green border.

Calathea picturata grows in clumps that are about 35 to 40 centimeters tall. It is very fragile and tender and cannot survive below 15 degrees celsius.

There are other varieties of this species like Calathea picturata Crimson, which has deep pink colored leaves with dark green or black borders.

Calathea Galdamesiana:

Calathea Musaica

This one is a relatively new species that was discovered by a botanist named Helen Kennedy in 2016. Calathea galdamesiana is a flowering plant. The flowers are pale yellow and white in color. They grow on a flower-bearing structure that is lavender in color.

Calathea Ornata:

Calathea Musaica
Image source: Wikimedia

Calathea ornata, also known as the pinstripe plant, hails from South America, specifically from Colombia and Venezuela. Obviously, it gets its nickname from the vibrant bands of colors that the leaves sport.

There’s another variety of Calathea ornata called the Beauty Star plant. The leaves of this one are longer and thinner than a typical Calathea Ornata. They have pink, green, and silver stripes on the upper side and a purple hue on the underside.

Calathea Lancifolia

Calathea Musaica
Image source: Wikimedia

Commonly known as a rattlesnake plant, Calathea lancifolia thrives in the Brazilian rainforests. It is tough to believe that the breathtaking design on the leaf is not manmade.

The leaf literally has a pattern of smaller leaves on it in a darker color. The underside of the leaf has an amazing reddish-purple shade.

Calathea Roseopicta

When the plant is young, Calathea roseopicta has green leaves with a hint of pink stripes in the midrib. As they grow, the pink is replaced by white in some varieties.

The plant flowers during summer. The flowers are small, purple, and white. Just like most other varieties of Calathea, this one too has purple undersides.

Calathea Musaica
Image source: Wikimedia

Calathea Veitchiana:

Calathea Musaica
Image source: Plantingman

Calathea Veitchiana is also known as Calathea Medallion. The reason is right there: it is one of the grandest varieties of Calathea. The leaf puts on a spectacular display of green, black, and white.

The stems are a shade of pinkish-purple, and they go really well with the ornamental leaves. The plant has an average height, but it sprouts lots of leaves and forms a dense bush.

Calathea Vittata

Calathea Musaica
Image source: Nelumbogarden

The specialty of Calathea Vittata is the light green stripes shooting from the mid-stem to the edges of the leaf. This species is easier to care for than the other ones in the Calathea family. It can grow to a height of 60 centimeters on average.

Calathea Crocata:

Calathea crocata
Image source: Crocus

Calathea crocata hasn’t been around for a long time. It is still a new one in the list of trendy calatheas. Most people find it exotic and captivating because of its peculiar appearance. It has green leaves with purple undersides, just like other Calatheas.

But the shade is much darker, which works out quite well for its flowers. The flowers, which are bright yellow in color, stand out in contrast, and the plant looks very attractive.

Calathea crocata is also called the Eternal Flame because of the bright color of its flowers. It is native to Brazil and tropical America. It is not very common, and one reason for that is the destruction of habitat.

It is amusing that while so many people fuss over Calatheas in their gardens, the local folks just use these leaves to wrap stuff and ship it because the leaves are big enough. On a serious note, some species of Calathea are getting harder to find, even for the locals.

Some of them are ranked as vulnerable by the IUNC, while some are already disappearing. There is literally no species that is untouched by manmade environmental destruction.

So, while you add Calathea Musaica to your list of household plants, do give a thought to the issue of habitat destruction. If a plant makes your home look pleasant, imagine various flora’s role in an entire ecosystem. For someone who knows the joy of gardening and nurturing life, empathizing with the ecosystem can’t be that hard.

Rasika Godbole

Written by Rasika Godbole

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