Wednesday, April 13, 2011


"Katakataka" is the local name of this plant. It means astonishing, remarkable or puzzling. According to Wikipedia, its other names are Air Plant, Life Plant, Miracle Leaf, Goethe Plant.

The Kalanchoe pinnata is a succulent and a native of Madagascar. It's widely cultivated in temperate regions because of ease of propagation. In other areas, it can be grown as an indoor plant.

What's astonishing about this plant is its method of reproduction. Tiny plantlets begin to grow on the notches along the margins of its leaves. As soon as the plantlets develop roots they can be severed from the mother leaf and transplanted as individual plants.

The "Katakataka" (try pronouncing it fast if you don't speak Filipino) has become so common in the Philippines that almost nobody cares about this plant anymore. Even I was not a fan of this plant.

As I was walking around the garden last February, I was drawn to this curious profusion of chandelier-like clusters of upside-down flowers that are bell-shaped, reddish in color and dangling like pendants. In my several decades of existence it was my first time to see such a bloom. "How beautiful!" was all that I could say.

Upon closer inspection, it was a revelation. Surprise, surprise! The lowly "Katakataka" does not only reproduce in a remarkable way, its flowers are even more remarkable. This drew out a renewed interest in me. I will no longer ignore or dismiss this plant.

Because of its unusual but easy way of reproduction it has become an invasive plant in other parts of the world, especially in Hawaii. It's so easy to grow and as a succulent it even thrives on neglect. One leaf alone can produce several plantlets in no time.

In a sparsely populated garden like ours, plant invasion is still a welcome event.
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