Thursday, 23 August 2012

Beautiful Weeds: mother of millions

It may seem a tad provocative to write about the aesthetic merits of weeds, but why not? There are so many weedy plants out there, and many are also - dare I say - attractive. Their visual charms may explain their spread and persistence as gardeners get tempted to take a piece home. In the first in what I hope to be a regular series I will  write about some of my "favourite" weedy plants. This month I take a look at the striking succulent herb Bryophyllum delagoense.

The flowers of most varieties certainly catch the eye

Also known as Kalanchoe tubiflora or Bryophyllum tubiflorum this plant is a native of the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar and is part of the large Crassulaceae family. The plant grows up to 1 metre and needs little help to make a dramatic display as long as it's growing in a sunny spot. In the southern hemisphere the plant flowers during the cooler months, mainly between May and October. But be warned, NEVER be tempted to take cuttings of this plant home as it soon lives up to its common name, mother of millions.

It may seem apt that mother of millions is growing on 
this woman's grave, perhaps she was as prolific a 
reproducer as the plant that shares her final resting place
In warm temperate areas this plant forms colonies on inaccessible edges of roadsides or in vacant land. There is quite a lot of variation in the flowers but the the pretty bright red form seems to be the most common in built up areas, suggesting that humans are the main vector. As well as humans this plant spreads during flooding and by seed. As well as being a noxious weed mother of millions is reported to be extremely poisonous, especially to cattle. Eradication is difficult once established. Bush regeneration and government weed management websites recommend a combination of physical removal, poison and even fire to control. For home gardeners it's best not to grow the plant in the first place.

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