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Survival of the Cutest? Endangered Chinese Plant Thrives On Instagram

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From survival of the fittest… to survival of the cutest. The adorable plant species Pilea peperomioides (aka “Chinese money plant”), considered endangered in its wild habitat, has recently become a fixture of the indoor houseplant section at international big box stores such as Walmart, Home Depot, and Amazon.

Scottish botanist George Forrest was the first Westerner to discover Pilea peperomioides in its native habitat in the mountains of China’s Yunnan province in 1906. A prominent plant collector, his goal was to bring back what was previously unimaginable in Western botanic contexts. Mission accomplished, it seems.

Nicknamed the “Chinese money plant” for its round, coin-like leaves, Pilea peperomioides has been recently featured on the Instagram and Pinterest feeds of major plant influencers (yes, that’s a thing), and made available on plant e-commerce sites such as Horti and the Sill.

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Serene scene by @_nat_attack 💗

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In the middle of this sixth mass extinction, where human activity is causing the highest rate of biodiversity loss since the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) extinction some 66 million years ago, will only the cute survive? Preferential treatment for cute and charismatic species of plants and animals has been a central conflict in the field of conservation biology since the late 1970s.

But who can blame plant enthusiasts for their love of Pilea Peperomioides? Not only does this plant’s perky, peltate leaves make it an adorable addition to green interiors, its preference for dry, shady environments also makes it a low-maintenance and hardy houseplant.

chinese money plant ikea where to buy | RADII China

And now, for those of us lacking a green thumb, there’s even a fake version available on IKEA, ensuring that the cute will not only survive, but also become immortalized.

Lila Livingston
    Lila Livingston is a Beijing-based writer and environmentalist. She is the co-executive director of the Beijing Energy Network and an active member of Beijing’s climbing community. She holds a B.A. in environmental policy and East Asian studies from Barnard College and covers stories on lifestyle and the environment for RADII.

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