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Kalanchoe sp. Adans. 1763
pronounced: kal-un-KOH-ee species
(Crassulaceae – the stonecrop family)
common name: Kalanchoe
Kalanchoe is derived from the Chinese name for one member of the genus, thought to have been either Kalanchoe ceratophylla or Kalanchoe spathulata. It was first described by the botanist Michel Adanson in 1763. Adanson (1727–1806) was a French naturalist of Scottish descent. At the end of 1748 he left France on an exploring expedition to Senegal, a place that most naturalists shunned because of its unhealthy climate. He spent five years there, and collected and described, in greater or less detail, an immense number of animals and plants. He collected specimens not only of plants, but of virtually everything found in the country; he drew maps of the area, made systematic meteorological and astronomical observations, and wrote grammars and dictionaries of the languages spoken on the banks of the Senegal. On his return to France he used a tiny portion of the material he had collected in his Histoire Naturelle du Senegal, which he published in 1757. He spent most of the rest of his life inventing a system of classifying not only plants, but also pretty well everything else in nature, and in trying, fruitlessly, to persuade the scientific world to adopt it. He died in poverty, requesting, as the only decoration on his grave, a garland of flowers gathered from the 58 families of plants he had differentiated.
Kalanchoe is a genus of about 125 species of mostly bushy succulents found mainly through tropical regions of Africa and Madagascar, with a few species in Asia. They vary greatly both in growth habit, which ranges from low and sprawling to tall and tree-like, and in leaf characteristics, which includes a range of sizes, textures and colours. Most often grown for their interesting foliage, they are ideal plants for growing in containers, either indoors or on balconies.
The leaves of the members of the genus vary from small to large, felted, powder-coated or glossy, grey-frosted to dark green. Some species have leaves that are notched along the edges, and some produce tiny plantlets along the leaf edges. Heads of small starry 4-petalled flowers open at varying times, depending on the species. The blossoms are often vibrant, usually in yellow, orange, or shades of red.
Kalanchoe can be propagated from stem cuttings, leaf cuttings, or seed, or by removing plantlets.
In common with other members of Crassulaceae, some species of Kalanchoe can cause cardiac poisoning if ingested, especially with grazing animals. This is a particular problem in the Karroo region of South Africa, the native range of some members of the genus, and similar poisonings have also occurred in Australia.
In traditional medicine, Kalanchoe species have been used to treat such ailments as infections, rheumatism and inflammations.
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.
Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2009, 2014
Page last updated 19th December 2016