Kalanchoe

Synonyms: Mother of Thousands, Devil's Backbone
Scientific Name: Kalanchoë daigremontiana
Family: Crassulaceae (Stonecrop Family)

Habitat

Tropical regions such as Calcutta and particularly the South African island of Madagascar

Constituents

Various plant acids such as isocitric acid, malic acid, free tartaric acid, bufadienolides, alkaloids, calcium oxalate, flavonoids, anthocyans, tannins

Description

If you see lots of little plants scattered around a window ledge, kalanchoe (also known as bryophyllum) cannot be far. Tiny plantlets, miniatures of the mother plant, develop along the margins of the serrated leaves, where they sit perched like hordes of little children. They drop off easily and, after landing on soil, quickly develop roots and grow into independent plants, hence kalanchoe's common name "Mother of a Thousands." The leaves and stems of the plant are green, fleshy and covered with a shiny layer of wax. The entire plant is a huge water reservoir, the waxy layer preventing loss of water by evaporation. Kalanchoe, therefore, tolerates drought well. In fact, its entire metabolism is adapted to drought. During the day when it is hot, the plant effectively holds its breath and protects itself from water loss by evaporation. At night, the plant breathes, collecting the carbon dioxide in a form bound to malic acid. The following day it uses the stored carbon dioxide to carry out photosynthesis. This special type of photosynthesis, which is found in many cacti and succulents, is known as crassulacean acid metabolism.

Towards the winter, when the nights become longer than the days, Kalanchoe can flower. Numerous pendulous, closed flowers bloom, changing color from green to pale mauve. When the flowers fade, they are overgrown by the leaf buds.

Uses

In the traditional medicine of tropical countries, kalanchoe juice is used internally for diarrhea and fever. An ointment prepared from the expressed juice of the leaves mixed with oil or shea butter is used externally for treatment of ulcers, abscesses, burns or poorly healing wounds. The ointment has hemostatic, anti-inflammatory and wound-healing action.

It was Rudolf Steiner who first introduced kalanchoe in 1923 as a medicinal plant for hysteria.

Interesting Facts

Bryophyllum means "growing leaf" from bryein, meaning to grow or sprout, and phyllon, meaning leaf. The first specimens of the tropical plant were introduced into the botanical gardens of Europe around 1800 via England.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was "passionately fond" of the closely-related kalanchoe pinnata. He raised several generations of the plant himself from leaf buds and took pleasure in sending leaves to his friends for propagation. A letter to Marianne von Willemer dated April 1830 testifies to this: 'You recently received a small package which imposes upon you the pleasant duty of concerning yourself, in memory of an acquired friend, with the raising of plants. May these fertile leaves put down many roots and may they, in their abundant growth, perhaps also communicated by the friend herself to friends, revive and preserve the memory of the sender."

Incidentally kalanchoë daigremontiana grows faster and more luxuriantly than kalanchoe pinnata and is therefore preferred for the preparation of drugs and skin care products.

The Plant at Dr. Hauschka Skin Care

Dr. Hauschka Hydrating Hand Cream, Regenerating Serum, Regenerating Day Cream, Soothing Intensive Treatment and Renewing Night Conditioner contain succulent kalanchoe.

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