Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mother of Millions: A Cautionary Tale

Here's a scary little story for the weekend. Once upon a time, when other people lived in our house, the family was gifted with a cute little Kalanchoe daigremontiana from Madagascar. It was known by the cuddly name "Mother of Millions", but also, the creepier "Devil's Backbone". At some point, someone threw it outside into the backyard instead of into the trash. This plant is one tough survivor, and here's why:
Every leaf is edged in tiny plantlets, ready to grow and prosper in Zones 9-11. I planted two in a pot to see how fast they grew, and within just a week, there were mini kalanchoes, all ready to invade new worlds!

This plant is listed as invasive in Texas and Florida in the US. And it's highly toxic, to boot. However, lizards and geckos seem to thrive in its poisonous depths, I suppose it protects them well from predators? How does this plant stay in check in Madagascar? Any invasive succulents in your part of the world?


  1. Yes, they can grow fairly quickly and become weed. I keep them at a distance for sure. Something one would keep in a secluded corner and not let loose without strong maintenance of some sort. LOL! Euphorbia tithymaloides is actually devil's backbone, never knew this one had that name as well. Is this what you referred to in comment on K. pumila?

  2. I don't think any other kalanchoes are a problem in my area, just the daigremontiana. That pumila is lovely! I've seen "Devil's Backbone" as a nickname for several plants, I guess that's why we use the Latin ;-). People who like K. daigremontiana call it "Mother of Millions", or "Mexican Hat", and those who are driven nuts by it call it "Devil's Backbone", or just "The Devil Plant"! I haven't had the heart to pull it up, but I weed the little ones at least once a week to keep it in check.