Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Originally native to Madagascar, Mother of Millions (Bryophyllum delagoense) and hybrid Mother of Millions (Bryophyllum x houghtonii) are upright succulent plants usually growing 30 to 180 cm tall.
  • They produce clusters of drooping reddish-coloured flowers in winter and spread vegetatively via plantlets from their leaf margins.
  • Bryophyllum delagoense and Bryophyllum x houghtonii are poisonous to livestock and humans with Cattle deaths  from ingestion of these species common.
  • They are often initially introduced to new areas in dumped garden waste, and subsequently spread in waterways or flood events.
  • Mother of Millions and hybrid Mother of Millions are very poisonous to livestock and humans, and cause significant numbers of cattle deaths each year.
  • They invade rangelands and native pastures, forming very large populations in grasslands and open woodlands.
  • These populations can cause a reduction in the productivity of pastoral areas and can also have a significant negative impact on native plants and animals.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Mother of Millions (Bryophyllum delagoense and Bryophyllum x houghtonii) are long-lived succulent plants which produce distinctive, dull-red, drooping flowers in winter.

Mother of Millions (Bryophyllum delagoense) is a long-lived succulent plant with upright stems usually growing 30 to 180 cm tall, but occasionally reaching up to 2.5 m or more in height. The stems are hairless, mostly unbranched, and greyish or pinkish-grey in colour. The greyish-coloured leaves (15 to 150 mm long and 2 to 6 mm wide), and sometimes also the stems, have a darker mottling. They are fleshy in nature and almost cylindrical in shape, but with a small lengthwise groove. There are several teeth-like projections located at or near the tip of each leaf, in which tiny plantlets are often formed.

The bell-shaped flowers (2 to 4 cm long) are red, orange-red or pinkish-red in colour and the four petals are fused for most of their length into a tube. The flowers droop and are grouped into tightly branched clusters (10 to 20 cm wide) at the top of the stems.

The dry, papery fruit is about 10 mm long and remains enclosed in the old flower parts. It is deeply-divided into four sections and contains numerous minute brown seeds (less than 1 mm long) (Navie & Adkins 2007).

Hybrid Mother of Millions (Bryophyllum x houghtonii) is also a long-lived succulent plant similar to Mother of Millions in size, flower shape and colour and fruit type. The succulent leaves are distinctively folded or boat-shaped (40 to 80 mm long and 8 to 20 mm wide), with many small notches or teeth located along their margins. These leaves are borne on almost rounded stalks 10 to 25 mm long. Plantlets are often produced in the notches along the margins of these leaves. The leaves, and sometimes also the stems, are variegated with a darker coloured mottling. This hybrid will sometimes also produce plantlets from vegetative buds that form on the branches of the old flower clusters (Navie & Adkins 2007). Hybrid Mother of Millions is currently only found in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.

For further information and assistance with identification of Mother of Millions and hybrid Mother of Millions contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour


Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

These plants are weeds of pastures, grasslands, open woodlands, disturbed sites, roadsides, fencelines, embankments, waste areas, coastal environs and gardens in subtropical, semi-arid, tropical and warmer temperate regions (Navie & Adkins 2007). Mother of Millions is often associated with dry skeletal soils, rocky or stony sites and loose sandy soils, but it may be found in a wide variety of soils ranging from sand to heavy clays (Hannan-Jones & Playford 2002).

Are there similar species?

Mother of Millions (Bryophyllum delagoense) is very similar to hybrid Mother of Millions (Bryophyllum x houghtonii) and the main difference between the two plants is in the shape of their leaves. Mother of Millions has cylindrical leaves with notched tips, while hybrid Mother of Millions has slightly broader boat-shaped leaves with teeth all along their margins.

These plants can also be confused with other Bryophyllum species. They are particularly similar to Mother of Thousands (Bryophyllum daigremontianum), the other parent plant of hybrid Mother of Millions. However, Mother of Thousands has larger boat-shaped or folded leaves that are often more than 10 cm long and 25 mm wide. The other Bryophyllum species (i.e. B. pinnatum, B. proliferum and B. fedtschenkoi) can usually be distinguished by their flatter and broader leaves, which are sometimes compound with three or more leaflets (Navie & Adkins 2007).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Mother of Millions and hybrid Mother of Millions were included in the list of 71 species that were nominated by state and territory governments for assessment as Weeds of National Significance (WONS). Following an assessment process, Mother of Millions and hybrid Mother of Millions were not included as one of the 20 WONS. However, it remains a weed of potential national significance, and is highly toxic to stock and humans.

Native ecosystems: Both species are also regarded as significant environmental weeds in Queensland and New South Wales. They are well adapted to dry environments, are able to survive droughts, and can form very large infestations in grasslands and open woodlands in inland regions (Navie & Adkins 2007).

Mother of Millions is currently of most concern in southern and central Queensland, and in 2002 was ranked as the third most important environmental weed in south-eastern Queensland (Batianoff & Butler 2002). It is actively managed by community groups in Queensland and is listed as a priority environmental weed in eight Natural Resource Management regions in eastern Australia (Navie & Adkins 2007). In inland central Queensland, near Dingo, Mother of Millions is competing with and replacing the native herbs that make up the diet of the endangered Nail-tailed Wallaby (Onychogalea fraenata). In inland southern Queensland, it is one of four invasive plant species that is impacting on the endangered Isis Tamarind (Alectryon ramiflorus). It is also very invasive in sandy coastal sites, such as on foredunes and coastal islands. In one study it was found to be one of the twelve most invasive ornamental species on the foredunes of the Sunshine Coast (Hannan-Jones & Playford 2002).

Hybrid Mother of Millions is less common and widespread at present, and is currently of most concern in south-eastern Queensland. However, it was still recently ranked among the top 30 most invasive plants in this region. In New South Wales it is becoming increasingly common, particularly in the north-east of the state, and is also naturalised around the opal fields near Lightning Ridge (Navie & Adkins 2007).

Agriculture: Mother of Millions and hybrid Mother of Millions are very poisonous to livestock and humans. Cattle deaths resulting from ingestion of these species are quite common, particularly in south-eastern Queensland (Hannan-Jones & Playford 2002). These species commonly invade rangelands and native pastures, replacing useful grasses and legumes, and significantly reducing the productivity of pastoral areas.

NSW DPI (2019) staet that Mother of millions is toxic when ingested by livestock, it is also poisonous to humans and household pets. Ingestion of the toxins can be cumulative and livestock eating small amounts, several times within a few days may suffer poisoning. Eating about 5 kg of mother of millions would kill an adult cow. Where the plants are thick, this amount would grow in a square metre. Poisoning generally occurs when the plants are flowering – between May and October. Livestock are at a greater risk of poisoning if they have been moved to a new paddock, there is a feed shortage or during droving because they are more likely to eat the plant. If livestock have eaten a large amount of plant, they may die suddenly of heart failure. If they have eaten smaller amounts over several days, they may develop diarrhoea (sometimes bloody), drool saliva, dribble urine and then die of heart failure. Some affected livestock will recover slowly if small amounts of plant material have been eaten and their hearts are not badly damaged. Poisoned stock must be treated within 24 hours of consuming the plant. After this period heart function is severely disturbed and stock may be too badly affected to survive. If you suspect livestock could have mother of millions poisoning, consult a vet immediately.

Urban areas: Mother of millions can become weedy in the drier gardens and little carried for gardens.  These plants can subsequently spread and jump the garden fence in to other areas. It is also toxic to humans and household pets with dogs being particularly susceptible. It is unlikely that humans or pets would eat enough plant material to become poisoned. However, because mother of millions can be found in many gardens, the likelihood of human or pet poisoning is increased (NSW DPI 2019).

How does it spread?

Mother of Millions reproduces by seed and by tiny plantlets that are produced at the tips of its succulent leaves. Hybrid Mother of Millions produces plantlets along the edges of its leaves and on the branches of its old flower clusters. Dislodged leaves and broken leaf parts of both plants can also take root and give rise to new plants (Navie & Adkins 2007).

These species are commonly spread in dumped garden waste. Their very fine seeds are probably wind and water dispersed and their leaves and plantlets may also be dislodged and spread about by animals, vehicles, machinery and slashers (Navie & Adkins 2007). Plant parts are also washed downstream during floods, and this is probably the most significant method of large-scale dispersal throughout catchments in inland areas (Cant 2007).

What is its history in Australia?

Both of these plants were deliberately introduced and cultivated as garden ornamentals. They quickly escaped cultivation, primarily when excess or unwanted garden plants were dumped in bushland and gullies. Due to their succulent nature, they survived and often spread down local watercourses. The first herbarium specimen of naturalised Mother of Millions was collected in 1947, and hybrid Mother of Millions was first collected in 1965. However, Mother of Millions certainly became naturalised at some time prior to this. For example, the first reported outbreak in Chinchilla Shire in Queensland occurred in 1940. A survey of Queensland in 1980 estimated that Mother of Millions infested an area of approximately 10 000 hectares (Hannan-Jones & Playford 2002).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Non-chemical control: Hand pulling of plants can be effective in small areas. However, all plant material should be stacked on a wood heap and burnt, or bagged and disposed of carefully, to prevent plant parts establishing new colonies.

Fire: Fire can be used to control larger infestations and this is often the most economical control measure. It kills Mother of Millions plants and also encourages grass competition. This can lessen the problem for several years and spot-spraying of survivors with selective herbicides at this time can provide very successful control.

Chemical control: Mother of Millions may be controlled with herbicides at any time of the year, but infestations are easiest to see in winter when the plants are in flower. However, treating infestations prior to seed development is important to prevent seed set and limit future seedling emergence (Land Protection 2007).

Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au .

Biological control: Mother of Millions has also been recognised as a target for biological control through a cross-jurisdictional government process. This allows activities to be undertaken to develop effective biological controls.

South African Citrus Thrips (Scirtothrips aurantii), which have been accidentally introduced into Australia, were noticed to be damaging Mother of Millions plants in the field in inland southern Queensland in 2003. Though this species is not a natural enemy of Mother of Millions, and is not even found in Madagascar, recent trials have indicated that it greatly impedes the growth and flowering of Mother of Millions. However, it may also have negative impacts on other important native and economic plant species and it is not being actively promoted as a control method until more information about its likely impacts are known (Cant 2007).

Permanent control of Mother of Millions is best ensured by establishing more desirable plants that can compete successfully with Mother of Millions seedlings and plantlets. Scattered infestations and small dumping areas on properties should also be regularly checked and cleaned up to prevent re-invasion (Land Protection 2007).

Check with your local council or state/territory government agency about its requirements for control of Mother of Millions and hybrid Mother of Millions.

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Mother of Millions and hybrid Mother of Millions are short-lived perennials, usually living for two or three years. They remain in the vegetative stage of growth for one or two years, depending on growing conditions, and then flower and die in the second or third year. Mother of Millions and hybrid Mother of Millions require exposure to a period of long day lengths followed by short days to induce flowering (Hannan-Jones & Playford 2002). Flowering in both species usually occurs during winter and early spring (i.e. from June to September) in Queensland, though it may be slightly later in the cooler temperate regions of southern Australia (Navie & Adkins 2007). Seed production is prolific in Mother of Millions, with a single plant capable of producing up to 20 000 seeds (Hannan-Jones & Playford 2002).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Mother of Millions is widely distributed in the eastern parts of Australia and is also naturalised in some parts of southern and western Australia. It is most common in the coastal and sub-coastal regions of Queensland and northern New South Wales. However, it is also present in the inland regions of these states, along the central and southern coasts of New South Wales, in some coastal districts of Western Australia and in inland South Australia. It has also recently become naturalised in Victoria and is also present on Norfolk Island (Navie & Adkins 2007).

Hybrid Mother of Millions is also widely naturalised in eastern Australia, though it is less common and widespread than Mother of Millions. It is most prevalent in the coastal and sub-coastal districts of Queensland, from the New South Wales border north to Townsville. It is also present in some parts of New South Wales and has also recently been recorded as naturalised in Victoria. Because this hybrid is so similar to Mother of Millions, its distribution in Australia has often been underestimated (Navie & Adkins 2007).

Where does it originate?

Mother of Millions is native to Madagascar, where it is more commonly found in the drier southern regions. It is sometimes also reported to be native to South Africa, but it is most likely naturalised there (Hannan-Jones & Playford 2002).

Hybrid Mother of Millions is possibly of horticultural origin. It is a hybrid of two species that are both native to Madagascar (Hannan-Jones & Playford 2002).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Bryophyllum spp.

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

For Bryophyllum delagoense:

  • Bryophyllum delagoaense de Lange, R.O.Gardner, Sykes, Crowcroft, E.K.Cameron, F.Stalker, M.L.Christian (incorrect spelling)
  • Bryophyllum tubiflorum Harv.
  • Kalanchoe delagoensis Eckl. & Zeyh.
  • Kalanchoe tubiflora (Harv.) Raym.-Hamet 


For Bryophyllum x houghtonii:

  • Bryophyllum daigremontianum (Raymond-Hamet & H. Perrier) A. Berger x Bryophyllum delagoense (Eckl. & Zeyh.) Schinz
  • Kalanchoe x houghtonii D.B. Ward

Does it have other known common name(s)?

For Bryophyllum delagoense: Mother-of-millions, Common Mother of Millions, Chandelier Plant, Christmas Bells, Mission Bells, Pregnant Plant

For Bryophyllum x houghtonii: Hybrid Mother of Millions, Hybrid Mother-of-millions, Mother of Millions, Crossbred Mother of Millions, Devil's Backbone, Good Luck Plant, Hybrid Life Plant

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