In the Rocinante's lounge/mess room, we can see a round niche on a wall, containing many plants growing from its edge, as shown here:

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And here, partially hidden but less blurred:

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What kind of plants are these? Being them located near the fabled coffee machine, so much loved by our hero Jim Holden, at first I thought that they could be coffee plants, but a quick search on Google Images proved that they are quite different. And, we can see that coffee beans are already available in their MCRN branded packages, so there is no need to plant, process and roast them on board:

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What plants are these? Are they supposed to have a practical purpose, maybe for cooking? Or are they just decorative, pretty much like your average bowl of petunias? Is the sign "keep this area clean" related to them? And, is there a reason why they are disposed in that particular circular pattern, growing from the edge and converging through the center of the niche?

I don't recall this detail from the books, so this question is mainly about the show, but if the novels give some info feel free to provide them.

  • 3
    They are the auxiliary oxygen generator?
    – Yasskier
    Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 22:48
  • I like Yasskier's suggestion. Too, as an auxiliary oxygen generator system it would match with the "keep this area clean sign." I.e. you wouldn't want the clear glass/plastic covering over the plants to get dirty and not let in the light that helps them grow and produce oxygen.
    – beichst
    Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 22:56
  • 1
    You need way more plants than that to even approach an organic air recycler. Somewhere around 400 houseplants (probably larger than even one of these) per person. Even high-efficiency algae requires something like eight square meters per person. Far more likely this is just decorative.
    – ench
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 23:37

3 Answers 3


I don't recall this detail from the books, so this question is mainly about the show, but if the novels give some info feel free to provide them.

Not about any plants aboard the Rocinante itself, but there are plants in a bar on Ceres Station that serve a specific purpose:

Snake plant and devil's ivy–staples of first-generation air recycling–decorated the wall and freestanding columns.
Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Four, page 43

Although they're described here as "first-generation" air recycling, plants are ubiquitous on Ganymede Station as well, as described in several passages in Caliban's War.

I think it's probable that the plants pictured also serve that purpose. The ship has other air recyclers as well (they're repeatedly said to "hum"), but these biological "first-generation" recyclers might be a rudimentary backup system.

  • Snake plant and Pothos (devils ivy) are popular for "purifying" air in houses or offices, but they would have to be grown in huge quantities to recycle enough air for even one human. Somewhere around 400 houseplants to keep one human going. This ring of plants might just keep a mouse alive. sciencefocus.com/qa/…
    – ench
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 23:34
  • @ench Hence "first-generation"?
    – tobiasvl
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 6:28
  • @ench We can assume that some genetic modification improved their ability a bit. Not enough, perhaps, to be main source of oxygen, but enough to be worth the space. Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 14:18
  • "first-generation air recycling" - perhaps this means that plants with higher CO2-to-O2 conversion were deployed later on? And the first-generation ones are now used mostly as decoration or in niche settings (pun not intended)?
    – einpoklum
    Commented Dec 26, 2021 at 20:34

Based on the paltry amount and placement of these plants, I assume they're cooking herbs. You know, to give your red kibble that certain zing. (Answer based on personal experience in the kitchen. Hope that's enough to qualify.)

  • 1
    This seems like idle guesswork. Why are they any more likely to be herbs than decorative or fragrant or medicinal or traditional/religious?
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 0:19
  • 1
    Because they're in a kitchen (galley), at counter height? But sure, downvote away!
    – jimallman
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 0:31
  • I found this convincing. It seems a lot of Expanse Fans are not well equipped in the kitchen :) Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 9:46

I can't speak for the specific plant, but having the plants grow inwards in a circular frame makes me think they could be spun up a few times a day to make sure that plants grow orthogonal to the surface. Otherwise I imagine that the plants would simply seek the light, and in the microgravity environment their stems would be as weak as they could get away with. Perhaps by periodically spinning the frame they can ensure that the plants are strong enough to survive higher accelerations.

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