Wednesday, January 25, 2012


A healthy adult B. daigremontianum
Bryophyllum daigremontianum, AKA "mother-of-millions" and formerly known as Kalanchoe daigremontiana, has a rather unusual means of cloning itself. It's not unusual because it produces whole new plantlets -- root, stem, and leaf -- that are ready to grow the moment they fall off the parent. No, the production of complete plantlets isn't uncommon. Strawberries and spider-plants do that, and profusely, sending out questing plantlet-tipped runners (stolons) in every direction; and they're just two of the more familiar cases.

Rather, the unusual thing about the mother-of-millions is the sheer number of plantlets and the odd place where they're produced. Most species that produce plantlets do so either from a modified stem (like the stolons of spider plants) or a modified flowering structure (like the bulbils that sometimes replace garlic's flowers). B. daigremontianum scoffs at that: its bulbils grow right on the leaves. From every notch in its serrated leaf edges springs a little green peg of leaf tissue, and from every peg springs a single tiny plantlet, complete with minute leaves and fine baby roots. A large, healthy mother-of-millions can produce hundreds of these clones at a time, and whenever one falls off the parent -- which can happen with as little stimulus as a nice fat raindrop, once the clones are mature enough -- it will eagerly take root and grow. The mother-of-millions is aptly named: under the right conditions, it spreads like a leafy green wildfire.

Tip of a B. daigremontianum leaf, plus 15 clones.
Aww, look at their little bitty rootlets!
I keep a potted Bryophyllum daigremontianum in my living room. It needs a lot of sunlight but very little water, and thrives to the point that unless I keep it separated from my other houseplants, I am forever having to pluck freshly-rooted clones out of everyone else's soil. Anyone looking to adopt one of these need only let me know.

Image sources: Wikimedia Commons.


  1. I'll adopt! We need some death-proof plants here. :)

    1. Awesome! E-mail me -- photosynthetic.430 AT gmail DOT com -- with the address where you'd like them mailed, and I'll send some off. Alternately, if you're in the Boise, Idaho area, we can just set up an in-person handoff (arranged by e-mail).