Cathedral bells

Cathedral bells

Bryophyllum pinnatum

Common Name:

Cathedral bells

Scientific Name:

Bryophyllum pinnatum

Alternative common names:

Air plant, Curtain plant, Floppers,Green mother of millions, Leaf of life, Life plant.


Cathedral bells is a garden escape that is naturalised in tropical, sub-tropical and warmer temperate regions. It is a weed of gardens, parks, roadsides, railways lines, waste areas, coastal environs, creek-banks, open woodlands, forests and forest margins. Usually grow up to 60-120 cm tall.Its relatively broad leaves have scalloped margins and are oppositely arranged. These leaves may be simple or compound, with three or five leaflets. Its drooping bell-shaped flowers are greenish-yellow to pinkish-red in colour (up to 7 cm long).these flowers are borne in branched clusters at the top of its stems.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

Madagascar and Southern Africa

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA Category 1b

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

KwaZulu Natal

How does it spread?

This plant reproduces by seed and also produces plantlets along the edges of its leaves. Its fleshy (i.e. succulent) leaves are capable of taking root and developing into new plants after being broken off the main plant or being dumped in garden waste

Why is it a problem?

It can form dense populations in natural habitats (i.e. in open woodlands and wetter forests, in coastal environs and along waterways) and these populations replace native species and prevent their regeneration.This species is thought to be poisonous to livestock and humans.

What does it look like?

Leaves: These leaves (5-25 cm long and 2-12.5 cm wide) are green or yellowish-green in colour, hairless (i.e. glabrous), and are borne on stalks (i.e. petioles) 2-10 cm long. The leaflets are oval or narrowly oval (i.e. elliptic) in shape with rounded tips (i.e. obtuseapices), and when more than one leaflet is present the end (i.e. terminal) leaflet is usually significantly larger than the others. Tiny plantlets may occasionally be formed in the scalloped (i.e. crenate) margins of these leaflets. These plantlets are more often produced if the leaves become detached from the stems.

Flowers: It has drooping bell-shaped flowers are greenish-yellow to pinkish-red in colour (up to 7 cm long).

Fruit/seeds:The fruit are papery and membranous (about 15 mm long), with four slender compartments (i.e. carpels). They generally remain enclosed within the old flower parts and contain numerous minute, slender, brownish-coloured seeds (less than 1 mm long).

Does the plant have any uses?

Widely cultivated as a garden ornamental

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