Kalanchoe daigremontiana: characteristics, habitat, properties - science - 2023



Kalanchoe daigremontiana It is a succulent herbaceous plant belonging to the Crassulaceae family, endemic to the arid and mountainous regions to the southwest of Madagascar. It is characterized by generating pseudobulbs along the margin of its wide succulent leaves that, when detached, originate a new individual.

Known as aranto, devil's backbone, calanchoe, mexican kalanchoe, bad mother, mother of thousands, crocodile plant or immortelle, it is a plant considered invasive. In fact, its high colonizing potential has invaded xerophilic areas in countries such as the USA, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Spain, South Africa or Australia.

This species has been used ancestrally as a medicinal plant due to its extensive therapeutic properties. In fact, it has been shown to have components that can be useful in cancer, but it has not yet been possible to synthesize them to obtain a medicine suitable for consumption.

On the other hand, it has catalase enzymes that act as cell tissue regenerators, which also strengthen the immune system. Likewise, it has vitamins and mineral elements, which favor its use as raw material for pharmacological drugs or in cosmetology.

However, one must be very careful with its consumption and dosage, as it contains glycosidic aglycones and steroids that are toxic to the body. In fact, these compounds join with carbohydrates to form cardiac glycosides that can cause nausea, vomiting, and reduced heart rate.

General characteristics


The Kalanchoe daigremontiana it is a monocarpic succulent herbaceous plant with a simple, erect or decumbent stem, which reaches up to 1 meter in height. Under certain conditions, lateral roots develop from the stem, generating new primary stems that will later establish themselves as independent plants.

The opposite, succulent leaves of lanceolate shape are 12-20 cm long by 4-6 cm wide. They are generally dark green, pinkish-green, purplish-green with multiple reddish-brown spots, petiolated and occasionally peltate.

The margins of the leaves are serrated with numerous axillary bulblets, from which the shoots of new seedlings emerge. The calanchoe is a self-pollinated species that produces a large number of seeds, yet it reproduces vegetatively through leaf shoots.

Flowering occurs occasionally, at which point the plant quickly stretches its main stem up to an average 30 cm to develop its inflorescence. This terminal inflorescence presents small bell-shaped flowers of pinkish tones from which the dark-colored ovoid seeds originate.

Chemical composition

The chemical analysis of calanchoe reports the presence of various chemical compounds, among which fatty acids and carbohydrates stand out. As well as carotenoids, phospholipids, triacylglycerols, flavonoids, sterols, amino acids, phenolic compounds and certain triterpenoids such as bufadienolides.

Indeed, bufadienolides are cardioactive steroids known since ancient times, due to their cytotoxic effect on various types of cancer cells. In addition, three types of anthocyanins have been identified, E23 (cyanidin 3-O-glucoside), E24 (delphinin 3-O-glucoside) and E25 (perlargonidin 3-O-glucoside).


- Kingdom: Plantae

- Division: Magnoliophyta

- Class: Magnoliopsida

- Subclass: Rosidae

- Order: Saxifragales

- Family: Crassulaceae

- Subfamily: Kalanchoideae

- Gender: Kalanchoe

- Species: Kalanchoe daigremontiana Raym. - Hamet & H. Perrier 1934


Bryophyllum daigremontianum (Raym. - Hamet & E. P. Perrier) Berger


Kalanchoe: the generic name comes from the Chinese expression «kalan-chowi" what does it mean "that falls and develops», Related to its regenerative capacity. Other authors relate it to the Hindu word «kalanka" what does it mean "stain or rust».

daigremontiana: is the specific epithet that refers to a type of bufadienolid.

Habitat and distribution

Kalanchoe daigremontiana it is a species native to the mountainous regions of Andranolava and the tributaries of the Fiherenana River in southwestern Madagascar. At present it constitutes an introduced species in a great variety of tropical and subtropical environments around the world.

It is located in southern Florida and on the coast of Texas, in Puerto Rico and some islands in the Pacific. Indeed, in the Galapagos Islands, Marshall Islands, Fiji Islands, Niue, New Caledonia, as well as in the Canary Islands.

In addition, it is found in the wild in subtropical Africa and some areas of South Africa. Likewise, it is common in the territories of Queensland and New South Wales in Australia, New Zealand, China, India and Pakistan.

In America, it has been cited as an alien species in Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico. Their preferred habitat is rocky sites, rocks on the edge of roads, in mesophilic forests and high evergreen forests at altitude levels below 1,500 meters above sea level.

This species adapts to arid and dry environments due to its succulent consistency and the characteristic CAM mechanism of crassulaceous plants. Therefore, these plants thrive effectively in desert environments, xerophilous and thorny scrub, dry and disturbed forests, grasslands and intervened terrain.



The calanchoe is a crassulaceous plant with wide adaptability, which adapts to conditions of full sun exposure such as shady environments. However, it develops effectively at higher light intensity and in warm environments, since it does not tolerate cold and frost.

Indeed, this species is quite resistant to drought, as it has the ability to conserve moisture in its succulent leaves. In addition, under adverse conditions the acid metabolism of crassulaceae (CAM) acts, reducing photorespiration to a minimum, saving water and limiting their growth.

However, in the case of potted plants, it is advisable to maintain constant watering, preventing the substrate from remaining dry for a long time. The important thing is to use a porous substrate, with sufficient sand content, but with fine particles that retain moisture for longer.


TheKalanchoe daigremontiana it emits pseudobulbules or small seedlings on the leaf edges, these emerge axillary between the toothed margins of the leaves. Indeed, these pseudobulbs have two leaf primordia and a small disciform stem from which the roots are born.

The simplest way to propagate this species is to collect the small shoots or seedlings that the leaves emit. Later they are placed on a shallow pot with fresh and nutritious soil, it is not necessary to bury them, just arrange them on the surface.

It is recommended to cover the pot with plastic material, so that it maintains the conditions of temperature and humidity, in addition to placing it in indirect light. Under this environment and maintaining the humidity of the substrate, before 30 days the development of new roots is observed.

Once the seedlings have developed new leaves and are firm and vigorous, they can be transplanted into individual containers.


The calanchoe plant requires minimal care, as it is a rustic species that adapts to various environmental conditions. Indeed, as a wild plant or under cultivation, it is adapted to hot and dry environments with average temperatures between 20-30 ºC, not less than 10 ºC.

It grows on loose, well-drained soils, preferably a mixture of moss and peat in equal parts, for two parts of sand and clay. Due to its rapid growth it is recommended to replant during spring to prevent the plant from collapsing due to the weight of the terminal leaves.

The irrigations are applied only when the dry substrate is observed, applying directly on the substrate, not wetting the foliar area. In this way the rotting of the succulent leaves is avoided; during winter it is watered occasionally.

The calanchoe has a low incidence of pests and diseases, being common the presence of snails, aphids or scales. The control is carried out mechanically, eliminating the insects directly, or the leaves with severe infestations to prevent the spread of the infestation.

Maintenance pruning is recommended to stop terminal growth, removing old leaves and flowers, as well as diseased leaves. This plant, in wild conditions, tends to limit the growth of other species around it, but in pots it is appropriate to eliminate weeds.


Its biological activity is based on the presence of various secondary metabolites, including flavonoids, fatty acids, tannins and polysaccharides. Likewise, dehydrogenase and carboxylic enzymes, salts and mineral elements such as Al, Ca, Cu, Fe, Si and Mn, as well as vitamin C and bioflavonoids or vitamin P.

Indeed, compounds such as flavonoid glycosides have bactericidal and choleretic effects, favoring the elimination of toxic agents from the body. Vitamin C intervenes in oxidation processes and increases resistance in infectious conditions, and bioflavonoids guarantee blood circulation.

Tannins provide anti-inflammatory properties, limiting the progress of inflammation, and bactericidal, eliminating harmful microorganisms. In addition, it acts in a hemostatic way, healing necrotic tissue wounds. On the other hand, enzymes act as catalysts in metabolic mechanisms.

Macerates and ointments

In artisanal medicine, calanchoe has traditionally been used topically or orally to alleviate various ailments and conditions. In fact, it acts as an anti-inflammatory to heal external wounds and inflammation of internal organs.

In addition, it prevents cold-related conditions and is used for the symptomatic treatment of the flu. The young leaf macerate used topically stops bleeding from wounds and calms inflammation, even severe pain.

In the same way, it is used to relieve toothache, for the treatment of mastitis and to alleviate paronychia or inflammation of the nail bed. It is also applied to heal wounds caused by burns, frostbites, sores or fistulas.

In general, one of the main beneficial effects of calanchoe is the rapid epithelialization of damaged or ulcerated tissues. Indeed, it has the property of regenerating the surface of the skin or cuticle.

Infusions and decoctions

One of the traditional forms of consumption is infusions or decoctions of the leaves, widely used in alternative treatments for various diseases.

In the same way, it is used for the treatment of rheumatic problems, hypertensive variations, renal colic and diarrhea. As an infusion heals infections, deep wounds, gangrene, ulcers and abscesses; as well as psychotic crises such as schizophrenia, panic, fear or alteration of the nerves.

There is evidence that calanchoe extracts possess antioxidant, antimicrobial, cytotoxic and sedative activity. Likewise, it is studied that it may have antihistamine, anti-leishmaniasis, anti-tumor and anti-cancer effects.

On the other hand, it has the property of healing cellular damage to different organs, such as lung conditions, the urogenital system and the digestive system. Also problems of the kidney and the circulatory system, as well as conditions of the woman in the uterus, breasts or related to her fertility.

Calanchoe has a choleretic action, regulates the activity of the gallbladder and lowers cholesterol levels in the blood. In addition to effectively curing the alterations of the mucous membranes caused by internal inflammatory processes in the intestines, stomach or other functional organ.


As a medicinal plant, it is recommended to boil 1-3 previously chopped leaves in fresh water and consume three times a day. Furthermore, it can be used as a poultice, plaster or compress typically on external inflammations or wounds; the leaves are also eaten in salads.


The cultivation and consumption of kalanchoe daigremontiana It has certain side effects, both for the environment and for the person who consumes it. Adverse effects include allelopathy and antagonism with other species, as well as allergic reactions or poisoning.

In fact, at an ecological level, the high incidence of calanchoe in an ecosystem tends to monopolize resources and induce hypersensitivity of other species. Its presence alters the habitat, affects the nutrient regime, generates monoculture, reduces natural biodiversity and finally invades the environment.

Naturally, it is a toxic plant for animals or children who consume it by mistake, due to the presence of cardiac glycosides. On the other hand, used as a natural alternative for the treatment of different diseases, it can cause toxic symptoms when the recommended doses are exceeded.

Despite the myriad reported medicinal benefits, its consumption is restricted in children, pregnant women and nursing mothers. In addition, in case of maintaining medical treatment for any disease, the doctor should be consulted to rule out possible interactions.

In patients with allergic conditions towards certain substances such as sterols, phenols or flavonoids, it can cause irritation in case of topical applications. Recent studies have not reported collateral effects, however, like any medicinal product, its intake should be notified to the doctor.


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