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Mother of Millions adapts to survive

GROWING PROBLEM: Mother of Millions spreads rapidly, producing hundreds of tiny plantlets.
GROWING PROBLEM: Mother of Millions spreads rapidly, producing hundreds of tiny plantlets. CONTRIBUTED

MOTHER of Millions, or Bryophyllum delagoense, is a native of Africa and Madagascar and was introduced to Australia as a garden plant.

Mother of Millions and associated plants reproduces rapidly, producing hundreds of tiny plantlets which quickly form new colonies.

It is adapted to dry conditions and can survive long periods of drought. This increases the plant's potential to persist and spread.

There are also less common Bryophyllum species. Five Bryophyllum species are invasive in Queensland.

Mother of Millions is a Class 2 declared pest plant under Queensland legislation.

These plants also produce small plantlets along the edges of their leaves, are adapted to dry conditions, and are poisonous.

Hybrid Mother of Millions can be distinguished by the shape of its leaves.

Mother of Millions, hybrid Mother of Millions, and resurrection plant when ingested are all poisonous to humans and household pets with dogs being particularly susceptible.

The toxic effects of these plants can cause heart failure. The toxins are present in all parts of the plant. Flowers are five times more poisonous than the leaves and stems. If livestock have eaten a large amount of plant, they may die suddenly of heart failure.

Poisoning generally occurs when the plants are flowering between May and October. Mother of millions is a succulent perennial plant growing 30cm to 1m in height.

The stems are pinkish-brown or greyish.

The leaves are pencil-shaped, pale green to pale brown with dark green patches and a shallow groove on the upper surface. There are up to seven projections at the tip of each leaf which when broken off can develop into new plants.

The flowers are orange-red and occur in a cluster at the top of a single stem.

Each plant produces small plantlets along the edges of its leaves which detach and form new plants.

Mother of Millions should be removed immediately using a combination of control methods including hand removal, fire, herbicide application and rehabilitation.

For small infestations, Mother of Millions can be removed by pulling up individual plants by hand. Once the plants have been removed they should be burnt; stored in black plastic bags until completely decayed or buried. All of these procedures will prevent regrowth from leaf fragments.

Care needs to be taken as plantlets may detach from the leaves during removal and establish as new plants.

For large infestations, fire is the most economical control option available and will kill the plants and much of the seed stored in the soil. Using fire first will reduce the cost of any spray applications.

Some groups have reported a 30% reduction in Mother of Millions each year by using control burning with follow-up spot spraying.

Thorough spraying of mother of millions with herbicides is effective if sufficient wetting agent (non ionic surfactant) is used to penetrate the waxy outer covering of the plants - especially that of the plantlets.

Spraying with herbicides may not be 100% successful so the site should be monitored for regrowth and an appropriate follow up treatment carried out.

Four insects have been imported into Australia for testing as biological control agents.

Landcare

The Bundaberg Landcare Nursery in Faldt St is open on Thursdays and Fridays 10am-3.30pm, phone 0466 884 128.

Landcare President Michael Johnson 0422 297 062 or email bundylandcare@gmail .com.

Ian Read, Regional Coordinator for the Queensland Government Weed Network, 4159 9365 or email ian.read7@ bigpond.com.au.

Topics:  gardening weeds



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