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Bryophyllum delagoense (Eckl. & Zeyh.) Druce 1917
pronounced: bry-oh-FILL-um del-uh-go-EN-see
(Crassulaceae – the stonecrop family)
pronounced: bry-oh-FILL-um tew-bih-FLOR-um, kal-un-KOH-ee del-uh-go-EN-siss
common name: Mother of Millions
Bryophyllum is derived from the Greek βρυω (bryo) to sprout, and φυλλον (phyllon), a leaf, referring to the ability to propagate via leaf cuttings; delagoense means ‘from Delagoa Bay (Mozambique)’; tubiflorum is from the Latin tubus, a tube or pipe, and floreo, to bloom; Kalanchoe is from the Chinese name for one of the species.
This garden escapee, originating from Madagascar, colonizes on roadsides and vacant land. The perennial herb (to 1 m high) is a Class 2 Declared Weed in Queensland.
The cylindrical stems of this unbranched plant are erect. The simple, almost cylindrical succulent leaves are alternate, sessile, notched near the apex, 2–15 cm long. They are pale green to pale brown with dark green patches and a shallow groove on the upper surface, often with plantlets produced towards the apex, and tubular red flowers are borne in clusters at the apex of the stem.
This plant has become naturalized over most of Queensland (except for Cape York Peninsula) and north-eastern NSW, and has potential to spread over much of the Northern Territory and the northern half of Western Australia. Once established, it is difficult to eradicate. In the garden, the plant is quite easy to pull up by the roots, but will disperse hundreds of seeds in the process. The plant is poisonous to stock, and occasionally causes a significant number of cattle deaths. When cattle are under stress or in unusual conditions, they are more likely to eat strange plants. Shifting cattle to new paddocks, moving stock through infested areas, and a reduction in food availability due to flood or drought, can all contribute to poisoning. Since the plant flowers from May to October, during the drier months of the year, the scarcity of feed may cause cattle to consume lethal amounts of Mother of Millions. Poisoned cattle show signs of dullness, loss of appetite, diarrhoea and heart failure. If the cattle are to recover, they must be treated within 24 hours of being poisoned. The treatment is intense (it must be done by a veterinary surgeon) and expensive.
In the garden (and on the nature strip), it seems that the best way to remove this plant is to pull up the plants by hand, stack on a wood heap, and burn them, if you are in an area where burning is permitted. Alternately, they should be bagged and put in a wheelie-bin destined for land-fill rather than one destined for recycling into mulch – this will only hasten the spread of the seed. The plant may be controlled with herbicides at any time of the year, but infestations are easiest to see in winter, when the plants are in flower. Treating infestations at this time of the year also has the benefit of destroying the plants before new seeds have had time to form.
Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2009, 2013, 2016
Page last updated 30th July 2018