Bryophyllum delagoense (Mother-of-millions)

Scientific name

Bryophyllum delagoense (Eckl. & Zeyh.) Druce

Synonyms

Bryophyllum tubiflorum Harv.; Bryophyllum verticillatum (Scott-Elliot) Berger; Kalanchoe delagoensis Eckl. & Zeyh.; Kalanchoe tubiflora (Harv.) Raym.-Hamet; Kalanchoe verticillata Scott-Elliot

Common names

Mother-of-millions, chandelier plant, finger plant.

Family

Crassulaceae

Origin

Native to Madagascar.

Naturalised distribution (global)

Locations within which Bryophyllum delagoense is naturalised include southern and eastern Africa, South America, south-eastern USA and some oceanic islands with warm climates.

Introduced, naturalised or invasive in East Africa

Bryophyllum delagoense is invasive in parts of Kenya, naturalised in Uganda (A.B.R. Witt pers. obs.) and in Tanzania (Henderson 2002). This species has been found growing prolifically in parts of Nairobi National Park.

Habitat

Bryophyllum delagoense is a widespread weed of pastures, grasslands, open woodlands, waste areas, disturbed sites, fence lines, roadsides, embankments, and railways in subtropical, semi-arid, tropical and warmer temperate regions. It is commonly found growing in rocky sites or on poor soils. It prefers rocky outcrops in dry savannas and urban open spaces.

Description

Bryophyllum delagoense is a long-lived (perennial) fleshy (succulent) plant with upright (erect) stems usually growing 30-180 cm tall, but occasionally reaching 2.5 m or more in height. The whole plant is not hairy.

The stems are hairless (glabrous), mostly unbranched, and greyish or pinkish-grey in colour.

The greyish coloured leaves are fleshy (succulent) in nature (15-150 mm long and 2-6 mm wide) and almost cylindrical (terete), but with a small lengthwise (longitudinal) groove. There are several (3-9) 'teeth' located at or near the tip of each leaf (apical notches). The leaves, and sometimes also the stems, have a darker mottling (they are variegated) and tiny plantlets form in the 'teeth' at the leaf tips (in the apical notches).

The bell-shaped (tubular) flowers (2-4 cm long) are either red, orange-red or pinkish-red in colour and the four petals are fused for most of their length (into a corolla tube). They are drooping (pendulous) and grouped into tightly branched clusters (10-20 cm wide) at the top of the stems (in terminal corymbose inflorescences). These flowers also have four partially fused greyish coloured sepals (5-13 mm long), a four-lobed ovary, four styles and eight stamens. They are borne on individual stalks (pedicels) 5-20 mm long.

The dry, papery fruit is a 'follicle' (about 10 mm long) and remains enclosed in the old flower parts. It is deeply-divided into four sections (carpels) and contains numerous minute brown-coloured seeds (less than 1 mm long).

Reproduction and dispersal

Bryophyllum delagoense reproduces by seed and by tiny plantlets that are produced at the tips of its fleshy (succulent) leaves. Dislodged leaves and broken leaf parts can also take root and give rise to new plants. This species is commonly spread in garden waste. The tiny seeds are probably wind and water dispersed and its leaves and plantlets may also be dislodged and spread by animals, vehicles, machinery, soil and slashers.

Similar species

Bryophyllum delagoense is very similar to Bryophyllum x houghtonii (hybrid mother-of-millions) and Bryophyllum daigremontianum (mother-of-thousands)These species can be distinguished by the following differences:

  • B. delagoense has relatively small cylindrical (terete) leaves (usually less than 10 cm long and only 2-6 mm wide) that are always simple. These leaves are greyish in colour with some darker patches (they are variegated) and have a few teeth at their tips (apical notches).
  • B.  x houghtonii has relatively small boat-shaped or folded leaves (4-8 cm long and 8-20 mm wide) that are always simple. These leaves are greyish or greyish-green in colour with some darker patches (they are variegated) and have numerous teeth along their margins (marginal notches).
  • B. daigremontianum has relatively large boat-shaped or folded leaves (often more than 10 cm long and 25 mm wide) that are always simple. These leaves are greyish-green in colour with some darker patches (they are variegated) and have numerous teeth along their margins (marginal notches).

Economic and other uses

Bryophyllum delagoense has been introduced to many parts of the world as an ornamental plant. However, these uses cannot compensate for this plant's overall negative impacts.

Environmental and other impacts

Bryophyllum delagoense is considered to have a negative effect on biodiversity in Kenya's National Parks and minor environmental weed in private gardens. This species is well adapted to dry environments and able to survive droughts. It forms very expansive populations in grasslands and open woodlands in inland regions and spreads during flood events.

B. delagoense very poisonous to livestock and humans and almost certainly also to wildlife. Cattle deaths resulting from ingestion of this species are quite common in Queensland, Australia. This species commonly invades rangelands and pastures, replacing grasses and legumes, and can significantly reduce the productivity of these areas.

B. delagoense has been listed a noxious weed in South Africa (prohibited plants that must be controlled. They serve no economic purpose and possess characteristics that are harmful to humans, animals or the environment) and in the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales.

Management

The precise management measures adopted for any plant invasion will depend upon factors such as the terrain, the cost and availability of labour, the severity of the infestation and the presence of other invasive species. Some components of an integrated management approach are introduced below.

The best form of invasive species management is prevention. If prevention is no longer possible, it is best to treat the weed infestations when they are small to prevent them from establishing (early detection and rapid response). Controlling the weed before it seeds will reduce future problems. Control is generally best applied to the least infested areas before dense infestations are tackled. Consistent follow-up work is required for sustainable management.

For larger infestations a controlled burn can be effective. This is the most economical control, encourages grass competition and lessens the problem for years requiring only spot follow up activity to remove reinfestations. removal with selective herbicides. Bryophyllum delagoense is susceptible to a variety of herbicides.  Optimum time for treatment appears to be when plants flowering although they can be treated at any time. When using any herbicide always read the label first and follow all instructions and safety requirements. If in doubt consult an expert.

A number of potential biological control agents have been considered  for release against B. delagoense (Witt et al. 2004).

Legislation

Not listed as a noxious weed by the state or governments in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

References

Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). www.ars-grin.gov/npgs/index.html. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, National Genetic Resources Program, Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Beltsville, Maryland, USA. Accessed March 2011.

Global Compendium of Weeds. www.hear.org/gcw. Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk Project. Accessed March 2011.

Henderson, L. (2001).  Alien weeds and invasive plants. A complete guide to declared weeds and invaders in South Africa.  Plant Protection Research Institute Handbook No. 12, 300pp. PPR, ARC South Africa.

Henderson, L. (2002). Problem plants in Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Final Report to the NCAA.

Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER). Bryophyllum delagoense (Eckl. & Zeyh.) Schinz, Crassulaceae: plant threats to Pacific ecosystems. www.hear.org/pier/species/bryophyllum_delagoense.htm. Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry, Hawaii, USA.

Witt, A.B.R, McConnachie, A.J. and Stals, R. (2004). Alcidodes sedi (Col.: Curculionidae), a natural enemy of Bryophyllum delagoense (Crassulaceae) in South Africa and a possible candidate agent for the biological control of this weed in Australia. Biological Control 31, 380-387.

Editors

Agnes Lusweti, National Museums of Kenya; Emily Wabuyele, National Museums of Kenya, Paul Ssegawa, Makerere University; John Mauremootoo, BioNET-INTERNATIONAL Secretariat - UK.

Acknowledgments

This fact sheet is adapted from The Environmental Weeds of Australia by Sheldon Navie and Steve Adkins, Centre for Biological Information Technology, University of Queensland. We recognise the support from the National Museums of Kenya, Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI) - Tanzania and Makerere University, Uganda. This activity was undertaken as part of the BioNET-EAFRINET UVIMA Project (Taxonomy for Development in East Africa).

Contact

BioNET-EAFRINET Regional Coordinator: eafrinet@africaonline.co.ke