Sunday, May 1, 2016

Frostweed and Jamaican Leaf of Life

I grow a number of medicinal herbs in my outdoor garden. The two I'll show today are Frostweed (Verbesina virginica) and Jamaican Leaf of Life (Bryophyllum calycinum and pinnatum):
Frostweed is thusly named because it sends out water vapor when temperatures plummet, and creates some amazing natural frost sculptures along its stalk:
In traditional medicine, the leaves are smoked for a variety of ailments, including bereavement and grief in general. I have not tried this, so I have no comment! The Jamaican Leaf of Life is used for respiratory conditions, particularly asthma. I make a tincture or tea out of the leaves. The flavor is astringent and salty, and rather pleasant. Some people around here just chew the leaves, but I find that makes me pucker, like I do when I eat a persimmon.

The Leaf of Life propagates the way the Mother of Millions does- from nodes in the leaves themselves. Just throw a leaf on the ground and watch roots sprout and tiny plantlets grow. In tropical zones, the Leaf of Life is lively indeed! My herbalism teacher gave me one leaf a few years ago, and now I have over 20 plants! 


  1. I like to know interesting things about plants I am familiar with - (Bryophyllum) and I like to learn about plants I don't know Verbesina virginica. Thanks for the very interesting info Marla. The plant world is full of wonder and fascination.

  2. Do you actually use the Leaf of Life, Bob? I find it makes a lovely tea, but eating the leaves raw is too puckerish. I've also made a tincture that doesn't taste too bad. It seems to have a mild anti-inflammatory effect. I was told in Jamaica, they generally just chew the leaves, so that may explain why it's considered stronger medicine than the effect I'm getting from it.

  3. No Marla, I've never used it in a medicinal or culinary way. It's one of those plants I grow to give away at our society plant shows or displays. I always have people tell me they can't grow any succulents; that they always dry up and die. I suggest they try one of the Bryophyllums and they often come back the next year and tell me how well their plant has grown and that they have given little plants away to all their friends. Of course we don't have to worry about the bryophyllums becoming landscape pests as our winters are cold enough to stop that. But I do enjoy stories about plants and their uses and I try to incorporate them when I'm teaching. The info about the Frostweed was very interesting and new to me. I usually learn something new everyday when I'm on the web. Hope your weather is nice, we are chilly and wet here in Maryland.