Bryophyllum pinnatum

mother of thousands


Bryophyllum pinnatum

(Lam.) Oken 1841

pronounced:bry-oh-FILL-um pin-NAH-tum

(Crassulaceae — the stonecrop family)

synonym — Kalanchoe pinnata

(Lam.) Pers. 1805

pronounced: kal-un-KOH-ee pin-NAH-tuh

common names: mother of thousands, resurrection plant

Bryophyllum is derived from the Greek βρυω (bryo) to sprout, and φυλλον (phyllon), a leaf, referring to the alility to propagare via leaf cuttings. This plant is a very close relative of Bryophyllum delagoense, (Mother of Millions). Pinnata and pinnatum are from the Latin pinnatus, feathered, winged. Kalanchoe is from the Chinese name for a plant of this genus.

This is yet another garden escapee present on Magnetic Island. Although it does not seem to be as wide-spread yet as is Mother of Millions, I have noticed a great deal more of the plant in the last few years. Bryophyllum pinnata also originates in Madagascar, but has become naturalized in much of the tropics and subtropics. All Bryophyllum species are Class 2 declared invasive weeds in Queensland.

It is a rapidly-growing succulent herb. The leaves are thick and fleshy, simple, or compound in pairs, on reddish stems. Plantlets grow from the notches of the leaf margins, and they can develop either while still attached to the mother plant, or when detached. The plant can also reproduce from adventitious shoots from the base. The flowers are in paniculate cymes 20 – 80 cm long, each one pendant on pedicels 1 – 2.5 cm in length. Each flower is about 5 cm long and bell-shaped, greenish or yellowish, reddish by the stems, and very attractive.

The plant can form dense stands in disturbed and dry areas. It is especially invasive in parts of Hawaii that are of low elevation. In Fiji it is a weed of waste places and cultivated fields, and along roadsides, naturalized on rocky coasts and slopes, and sometimes in dry forest. There it is a pest up to about 550 m in elevation. It has even invaded the Galapagos Islands, where it is rife in open, disturbed areas in the arid lowlands and the moist uplands.

dangerous 2In common with many other members of this family of plants, Bryophyllum pinnata can cause cardiac poisoning in grazing animals. However, it is also used in traditional medicine. In Trinidad and Tobago it is used to treat hypertension, and in parts of India an extract of the plant is used to treat kidney stones. In the Philippines, the plant is pounded and applied as a poultice for sprains, eczema, burns, infections and boils. It is not usually taken internally. The treatment for boils and abscesses is interesting: the whole leaf is pressed by hand, to and fro, until it becomes moist with the leaf extract. A small opening is made in the middle of the leaf which is then placed on the boil with the hole over the pointing of the boil. The watery extract of the leaves is also used as an analgesic.

Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.


Photographed in Picnic Bay 2009-2011
Page last updated 26th January 2020