WALA Plant Library
Synonyms: Mother of Thousands, Devil's Backbone
Scientific Name: KalanchoŽ daigremontiana
Family: Crassulaceae (Stonecrop Family)
HabitatTropical regions such as Calcutta and particularly the South African island of Madagascar
Various plant acids such as isocitric acid, malic acid, free tartaric acid, bufadienolides, alkaloids, calcium oxalate, flavonoids, anthocyans, tannins
The most striking feature of this plant is what gave it the common name Mother of Thousands. If you see lots of little plants scattered around a window ledge Bryophyllum cannot be far. Tiny plantlets, miniatures of the mother plant, develop along the margins of the serrated leaves, where they sit perched like hordes of little children. They drop off easily and, after landing on soil, quickly develop roots and grow into independent plants. The leaves and stems of the plant are green and fleshy and are covered with a shiny layer of wax. The entire plant is a huge water reservoir, the waxy layer preventing loss of water by evaporation. Bryophyllum therefore tolerates drought well. In fact its entire metabolism is adapted to drought. During the day, when it is hot, the plant effectively holds its breath and thus protects itself from loss of water by evaporation. At night the plant then breathes, collecting the carbon dioxide in a form bound to malic acid. The following day it then uses this carbon dioxide to carry out photosynthesis. This special type of photosynthesis, which is found in many cacti and succulents, is known as crassulacean acid metabolism.
Towards the winter, when the nights become longer than the days, Bryophyllum can also flower. Numerous pendulous, largely closed single flowers change slowly from green to pale mauve. When the flowers fade they are overgrown by the little leaf
buds. It is as if these plantlets wanted to prove that they contribute more to the spread of the plant than the seeds.
In the traditional medicine of tropical countries Bryophyllum juice is used internally for diarrhea and "all kinds of fever". An ointment prepared from the expressed juice of the leaves mixed with oil or shea butter, is used externally for treatment of ulcers, abscesses, burns or poorly healing wounds. The ointment has hemostatic, anti-inflammatory and wound-healing action.
It was Rudolf Steiner who first introduced Bryophyllum in 1923 as medicinal plant for hysteria.
Bryophyllum means "growing leaf" from bryein = to grow, sprout and phyllon = leaf. The first specimens of the tropical plant were introduced into the botanical gardens of Europe around 1800 via England.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was "passionately fond" of the closely related Bryophyllum calycinum (Kalanchoe pinnata). He raised several generations of the plant himself from the leaf buds and also took pleasure in sending leaves to his friends for propagation. A letter to Marianne von Willemer dated April 1830 testifies to this: "You recently received a small package which imposes upon you the pleasant duty of concerning yourself, in memory of an acquired friend, with the raising of plants. May these fertile leaves put down many roots and may they, in their abundant growth, perhaps also communicated by the friend herself to friends, revive and preserve the memory of the sender."
Incidentally KalanchoŽ daigremontiana grows faster and more luxuriantly than Bryophyllum calycinum and is therefore preferred for the preparation of drugs and Skin Care products.
Use in Skin Care and Remedies
Dr.Hauschka Hydrating Hand Cream, Regenerating Serum, Regenerating Day Cream, Clarifying Intensive Treatment (age 25+) and Renewing Night Conditioner contain the succulent Bryophyllum not only as moisture giver but also because of its wound-healing, refreshing, hemostatic, astringent and anti-inflammatory properties.