Kalanchoe daigremontiana - THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE

The 'Devil's Backbone' - Kalanchoe daigremontiana, is a bizarre succulent and almost unique amongst plants. Why? Well, because it has a highly unusual method of self propagation. More specifically, the Devil's Backbone is capable of producing genetically identical progeny from the tips of its serrated leaves.

A native of the Fiherenana valley and Androhibolava mountains in southwest Madagascar, the Devil's Backbone has several other common names such as the Alligator Plant, the Mother of Thousands, or the slightly misleading Mexican Hat Plant.

The Devil's Backbone can reach up to 3 feet tall with opposite, fleshy oblong-lanceolate "leaves" that reach as much as 6-8 inches long and 1 1/4 inches wide. These are medium green above and, as they mature, display purple blotches underneath. As mentioned before, at the tips of the leaf serrations, are spoon-shaped bulbiferous spurs that bear young plants. These plantlets will even form roots while still on the plant.

Adult plants can also develop lateral root structures on its main stalk, as high up as 10-15 cm from the ground. The plant has several nodes with two or three leaves on each node. The upper leaves of the plant tend to develop into disproportionately large structures, causing the main stalk to bend downwards and the lateral roots to take up root of their own, anchoring into the soil and eventually developing new primary stalks which establish themselves as independent plants.

Furthermore, Kalanchoe daigremontiana can go through a flowering season, where the main stalk elongates vertically upwards by as much as 30 cm, within a couple of days, developing an umbrella-like terminal inflorescence (a compound cyme) of small bell-shaped pink flowers.

Flowering is, however, not an annual event and will occur sporadically if at all.

WARNING: Please be aware that all parts of the plant are poisonous, which can even be fatal if ingested by infants or small pets.

For related articles click onto the following links:
DEVIL'S BACKBONE - Kalanchoe daigremontiana
HOOKER'S LIPS PLANT - Psychotria elata

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