Considering Monkey Grass


My friend is giving away her monkey grass. “Take it away,” she tells me. “I have too much of it—I don’t want it!”

So the monkey grass has been dug up and transported to our garden where the sturdy clumps stand around looking as unruffled as if they’ve always been there. They remind me of that fellow who used to leer at us from the cover of MAD MAGAZINE. “What?” the plants seem to be asking, “us worry?”

Far be it for me to become sentimental over bunches of monkey grass—also called liriope, mondo grass and snakesbeard— but I have to confess that there’s something endearing about these plants. I mean to say, here is this scrubby mound of verdure that is not really attractive except when trimmed and properly spaced (which isn’t going to happen anytime soon in our yard!). Still, it’s green, and it is going to survive everything: the Raleigh clay and rocks, the heat, the drought, the rains, the cold, not to mention neglect.

No matter what you throw at it, old money grass keeps trucking. It survives shade. It thrives in the blazing sun. Not much maintenance is required, either—you need only to plop a clump into a shallow cavity, water, and walk away.

In fact, monkey grass puts me in mind of ordinary folks like us who’ve put in our time and raised our families and taken life as it came—or tried to, anyway. Our feet are planted not in rich humus and rarified topsoil but in the hardscrabble clay. We may not get ourselves onto the cover of TIME, but we are out there doing our best to make a contribution. We pay our taxes and wait patiently at doctors’ offices. We vote for the candidate of our conscience and yet try to remain open to everyone’s ideas. We are bread and butter at life’s table, plain as salt and as necessary to the general order of things.
If at times we get discouraged and wilt, cool water will revive us. And—here’s the best part—we periodically send up surprisingly pretty clusters of lavender flowers.
You go, monkey grass!

So ordinary…
But from such mundane grasses,
Surprising flowers!


About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: My blog is here: Or friend me on Facebook!

2 responses »

  1. Monkey grass is such a fun name. It’s only fitting that flowers shoot up and surprise us. I’d like to think that I’m as durable as monkey grass with a few surprises of my own.

    Linda A.

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