Bryophyllum daigremontianum, commonly called devil’s backbone, mother of thousands, alligator plant, or Mexican hat plant is a succulent plant native to Madagascar. Like other members of its genus Bryophyllum, it is able to propagate vegetatively from plantlets that develop on its phylloclade margins. All parts of the plant contain a very toxic steroid known as daigremontianin.
|Young plants on leaf|
Plants grow up to 1.85 m tall (73 inches, 6.08 feet) and have opposite and whorled, fleshy oblong-lanceolate phylloclades which grow up to 28 cm (11 inches) long and 14 cm (5.5 inches) wide. They are green above and blotched with purple underneath. Phylloclade margins have spoon-shaped bulbiliferous spurs which bear plantlets which may form roots while still attached to phylloclades.
A plant may also develop lateral roots on its main stalk, as high up as 10–15 cm above the ground. A plant's upper phylloclades may grow large, causing its main stalk to bend downward. Then the lateral roots may enter soil and new vertical shoots may grow from the original shoot. Kalanchoe daigremontiana can spread by both seeds and by plantlets dropped from the leaves of the plant.
Bryophyllum daigremontianum has an umbrella-like terminal inflorescence (a compound cyme) of small bell-shaped, grayish pink (or sometimes orange) flowers. Flowering is, however, not an annual event and occurs sporadically if at all on some shoots. Particularly in climates with distinct seasonal temperature differences, flowering is most frequently observed at the beginning of a warm season. Indoor plants, as well as balcony plants which have been moved inside to survive the cold season, begin flowering in early winter.
As a succulent plant, B. daigremontianum can survive prolonged periods of drought with little or no water. During growth periods with higher temperatures and increased water supply, proper nutrition is needed, without which leaves will show deficiency symptoms like crippled growth and pustule-like lesions. The plant is not frost-hardy and typically dies if subjected to temperatures below freezing.
Plants of the genus Bryophyllum as well as many other plants growing in arid regions photosynthesize via Crassulacean acid metabolism.
B. daigremontianum is native to the Fiherenana River valley and Androhibolava mountains in southwest Madagascar. It has been introduced to numerous tropical and subtropical regions, such as Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil, and parts of the Canary Islands and Uruguay.
The plant is used for a lot of medicinal applications. It can be used against premature contractions where side effects are little. There are already commercial drugs produced from the compounds of the plant.
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- Everitt, J.H.; Lonard, R.L.; Little, C.R. (2007). Weeds in South Texas and Northern Mexico. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press. ISBN 0-89672-614-2
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