20 March 2014


The gorgeously colourful plants in the above photographs are called Kalanchoe.  They caught my eye on a recent visit to a plant nursery in Tunis.  The fleshy stems and leaves give an indication that this is a succulent plant.

Kalanchoe is a genus of about 125 species of tropical, succulent flowering plants in the family Crassulaceae, mainly native to the Old World. Only one species of this genus originates from the Americas, 56 from southern and eastern Africa and 60 species in Madagascar.  It is also found in south-eastern Asia and China.  Kalanchoe beharensis from Madagascar, can reach 6 m (20 ft) tall, but most species are less than 1 m (3 ft) tall.  These plants are cultivated as ornamental houseplants and rock or succulent garden plants. This plant is known to the Chinese as "thousands and millions of red and purple" (萬紫千紅), and is commonly purchased during the Chinese New Year..  They are popular because of their ease of propagation, low water requirements, and wide variety of flower colors.  These plants are the food plant of the caterpillars of Red Pierrot butterfly. The butterfly lays its eggs on the leaf and after hatching the caterpillar goes inside the leaf and eats the leaf from inside. In common with other Crassulaceae some Kalanchoe species contain bufadienolide cardiac glycosides which can cause cardiac poisoning, particularly in grazing animals.  


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