DO NOT attempt to eat your office plants. The list below shows that there are some varities of plants that can be eaten and some of them are found in plant displays in offices. This is not an advice guide but merely a light-hearted list of office plants that technically could be eaten.
The Acer palmatum (Japanese maple) is a decorative tree with small, five lobed leaves. It is frequently planted in office gardens due to its attractive appearance and smaller size. The sap from the tree can be used to make drinks or as a sweetener although it doesn’t contain as much sugar as the Acer Saccharum, the sugar maple. It’s the latter tree that Maple syrup comes from and the sugary sap is collected by making a V-shaped incision in the bark and inserting a funnel directed in to a collecting vessel. This is a slow process and has been made less labour intensive in some areas by inserting tubes directly connected to collecting sheds or sugar shacks.
Dracaena (Cordyline) terminalis
The Dracaena terminalis (Dragon tree or Ti plant) is often used in office plant displays as its vivid red colour provides a contrast to the mostly green vegetation suitable for interior landscaping. In its natural habitat the roots are baked and eaten as a dessert and the leaves can be used to wrap other food prior to cooking. The baked roots macerated in water produce an alcoholic drink when fermented and the dried leaves can be used for roof thatching or for clothing.
The Brassica (cabbage) is not normally associated with ornamental gardening, but can be used as a decorative plant in office landscaping and indoor flower displays. A compact rosette of leaves with frilly edges comprises pink, purple and cream colouring. A long stemmed variety is used in fresh flower displays. In this case the term ‘fresh’ could be a bit of a misnomer as the water in the flower arrangement will quickly turn yellow and give off a stewed cabbage smell. Not popular among receptionists!
For a drought busting garden, one with a Mediterranean feel or a containerised display, Agaves (California cabbage) are a tough albeit expensive choice. The heart, which is the centre after the leaves have been removed, of one variety of Agave (Weber’s Blue) is used in the production of Tequila. Office party animals please note that it takes between seven and ten years before the Agave can be harvested. Agave sap or syrup can be used as an alternative to sugar in cooking. You should be aware that the sap of some Agave will give rise to a painful skin irritation.
There are hundreds of species of Allium, some edible and some purely decorative. Edible varieties include garlic and onions. All have firm erect flower stems with a rounded inflorescence. Allium sphaerocephalon, and Allium caeruleum azureum look elegant in vases although like the cabbage can be a little too fragrant after a short time, with a more than faint aroma of onions.
Some Rhododendron (variety name Rhododendron) flowers are edible although extreme caution should be taken as many of the parts of the rhododendron are poisonous.
The swiss cheese plant, another very popular office plant, is named so because of the holes which appear in the leaves. Even in the office environment it produces a fruit from time to time which can be edible and is supposed to taste a bit like pineapple or possibly bananas. It definitely does not taste of cheese. The fruit has to ripen for over a year before it can be eaten as the unripe fruit can cause irritation in the mouth.
The sunflower is a favourite plant among children due to its ability to grow easily and quickly in the garden. Used in cut flower displays in the office, its flowers taste slightly bitter although you can lightly steam the petals to reduce the bitterness. Unopened flower buds may be steamed like artichokes, and of course the seeds can be bought in packets from the supermarket and are an excellent source of vitamins.
Certain yuccas will survive indoors in a bright sunny position. They will also tolerate low temperatures and so are ideal for conservatories, although direct sun will scorch the leaves or at least turn them pale. The flower petals on some Yuccas may be eaten but edible yucca fruits come only from the thick-leaf yuccas. The variety used in indoor plant displays ( Yucca elephantipes) does not usually produce flowers and is not edible.
There are a whole host of plants in containers, office flowers and outdoor plants in office gardens that may be eaten and a search on the internet will find lists and list of them. You will also find lists of plants that are extremely poisonous and should be avoided at all cost. Do not eat your office plants!