Saturday, July 20, 2013

Nostalgia plants – Bryophyllum

There are some trees and plants that my mind automatically associates with memories of my childhood. I call them nostalgia trees/plants. One of them which I have blogged about is the Casuarina tree. Another is the Bryophyllum.

From our garden

There are two things that I remember from my childhood days about this interesting plant.

1)  Tiny plantlets start to sprout at the edges of the leaf after it is plucked from the plant. My wife tells me that when she was young, she used to use this leaf as a book mark, and even when the leaf had been pressed between the pages of the book, roots would still appear. Thus one can understand why the common name for this plant in Chinese is 落地生根  (luodi shenggen) – translated literally; “grows roots when falls to the ground”.

2)  Among the kampong folks, it was believed that the leaf of the Bryophyllum has medicinal properties, in that it is able to promote healing of wounds. That’s why, in Hokkien, we called it Ti Tan Heok – literally, “iron nail leaf”. I cannot remember the details; but you’d probably have to pound it and apply it to the wound with the bandage. (Check out my story of childhood accidents here).


Zen said...

Quite true, many of my former class mates (primary school) also used this type of leaves as book markers, although I did not share their interest. Perhaps I was too lazy to locate such a plant which I had no slightest idea of. I believe the leaves made excellent book-markers due to its cuteness - thick, right-size with round edges and unchanging color (light green). The real catch was that the leaves were free and could be easily plucked from the plant, bearing in mind kids at that time were rather thrifty and would not like to spend money on book-markers.

Pat said...

The currently-accepted botanical name for this plant is Kalanchoe pinnata (synonyms: Bryophyllum calycinum, Bryophyllum pinnatum) — otherwise colloquially known as Mother-of-Thousands or Miracle Leaf.

In folk medicine, the mashed leaf pulp is applied as a poultice for wounds, sores & skin ulcers. Apart from providing pain relief, the leaves apparently also help to stem bleeding & heal wounds more quickly with minimal scarring. Traditional healers also use the leaves to treat sprains, muscular strains & rheumatism. More info below.

* What Are the Medical Uses of Kalanchoe pinnata? (WiseGeek)
* Nayak et al. Wound healing potential of ethanolic extract of Kalanchoe pinnata Lam. leaf — A preliminary study. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, Vol. 48, June 2010, pg 572-576.

As for use as bookmarks, I suppose part of the attraction lies in the ability of the succulent leaves to function as "living" bookmarks that are relatively long-lasting & could maintain their shape, as well as the novelty value of adventitious roots & plantlets forming along the foliar margins.

Incidentally, I wonder if anyone has ever seen the said plant blooming in S'pore ... say, during a bout of freak weather ? In sub-tropical India, the mature plant flowers from around November to March, when the days are warm (26°C) & nights are cool (down to 9°C). The blooms can be quite spectacular — the plant produces a large panicle consisting of dozens of pendulous pinkish flowers. Sample photo1, photo2.

Chun See Lam said...

Hi Pat. Thanks for sharing the valuable info. The plants in your photos are spectacular and so tall!. The plants I have seen are all no more that a couple of feet in height.