Mystery plant . . . and this is supposed to keep the moles away?!

An Update: Lorraine from the Kumbula Indigenous Nursery has identified the plant. She wrote:

This plant is called Bryophyllum proliferum or “Green Mother of Millions”. It comes from Madagascar and is highly invasive in South Africa. It will root from even a broken piece of leaf and it produces baby plantlets along the edges of the leaves that fall everywhere and grow. I planted a couple of them in my garden in the Eastern Cape 4 years ago and I have been trying to get rid of the young plants for the last three years! It certainly did not discourage the moles or the molerats (which may be what you have). The plants are also poisonous to livestock. The plant has escaped from gardens in the areas around Durban, PE, Cape Town and most of Gauteng and is fast becoming an alien invader species. If you decide to grow it, make sure that any stems or leaves that you may cut off in the future are burnt, not sent to the rubbish dumps where they will get a chance to spread into the countryside. Such a pity as it makes a lovely shrub with pretty flowers.

So I will be removing the plant again. I know my neighbour meant well, but I don’t want to knowingly grow any alien invasive species in our garden.

Original Post:

Let me begin by saying that we are not “lawn obsessed”.  Our lawn has never been the “perfect” lawn. It is not evenly cut, it is patchy and it has some weeds in it. Lately though it’s become even less of a lawn and more of a mole playground. The neighbourhood moles moved in and are rapidly taking over.

Follow the mole. You can see by the “freshness” of the molehills what direction this mole was burrowing in. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

In some areas, the mole is not even coming right up to the surface, but burrowing just below it creates this kind of look . . .

©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

The other day I came home to find that one of our neighbours had left two plants for us, with a little note attached. What it said was that we should plant them in our garden to keep the moles away. Apparently, this had worked wonders at the local lawn bowling club who as the name suggests rely on pristine lawns. The neighbour had obtained two of the little plants for us – off-shoots of the bigger plants at the bowling club. The idea, I guess, is that we start planting these plants along the perimeter of our property. It gave me a warm feeling to think that people in our neighbourhood (the neighbour in question lives in the road behind us), would care enough about our garden to get involved in our battle against the moles. And especially that they are thinking up eco-friendly solutions. We have a cat and dog so we have never wanted to use poisons in the garden. Of course, chasing the moles away from our garden may just make them become somebody else’s problem!

The mystery plant currently stands about 30 cms in height. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

A close-up of the leaves which are almost like succulent leaves. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

From the top the plant leaves create an interesting patten. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Does anyone know what the plant is, and whether it is going to help keep the moles out of our yard?

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Categories: Nature/Environment, Random

Author:lisa@notesfromafrica

I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at https://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and http://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)

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18 Comments on “Mystery plant . . . and this is supposed to keep the moles away?!”

  1. GeoRoMancer
    August 27, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    Hi Lisa,

    Not being a “bollogist”, I can’t comment on this weird-looking plant; just wanted to mention a plant that allegedly has a similar function: to keep cats and dogs at bay.

    This mammal-repellent, known inter alia as “Plectranthus caninus”, was marketed fairly aggressively here in Germany several years ago, but I haven’t seen it since.

    According to Wikipedia.de (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verpiss-dich-Pflanze), the nursery owner tried to “trademark” it — citing protection granted in the USA, and claiming he had developed a new variant — but the application was denied, the reason being that it appeared indistinguishable from a plant found in South Africa (Plectranthus ornatus Codd.)!

    Here’s the English Wikipedia link:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plectranthus_caninus

    Have you seen it or heard of it?

    Best wishes from a sunny Bremen (i.e. in Northern Germany, where sunny days are not so common – apparently, there are kazillions of Bremens in the US!!).

    • August 27, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

      Hi GeoRoMancer!

      Good to see you commenting again. 🙂 Although Plectranthus species are common in gardens here in South Africa, I hadn’t heard of Plectanthrus Caninus. Interesting story . . . I love the nicknames they give it on Wikipedia (“Scaredy Cat Plant” and “Piss-off plant”)!

      Enjoy the sunny weather while it lasts . . . winter is on its way!

  2. August 27, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    Interesting. We used to plant marigolds around our garden- the rabbits didn`t like the smell thus the marigold fence kept them out. The Deer didn`t mind unfortunately. Can`t wait to see if it works.

    • August 27, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

      Thanks for the comment. Now I’ll know what to plant if there is a rabbit plague! 🙂 So far, with only 2 plants and a couple of days in, we haven’t seen any decline in mole activity.

      • August 27, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

        My mom has some problems with moles in Tennessee. They use marigolds also planted around the perimeter of the yard.

        I’ve heard daffodils and castor bean plants are also good mole deterrents. But since you have pets castor bean plants can be too dangerous to have around.

        At any rate even if your new plants don’t keep the moles away, they are very pretty.

      • August 28, 2012 at 11:45 am #

        Yeah, with a cat and dog that like chewing on things, the castor beans are out. But I should try planting marigolds and daffodils. I see one of the gardens in our neighbourhood has a lot of daffodils in it – and a beautiful lawn.

  3. August 27, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    I laughed when I saw your photos of the lawn (sorry! :-() As a child, I once decided to try and catch a mole, much to the merriment of my siblings. The mole was safe, they are very quick and I didn’t have a hope!
    This plant may just work by exuding a smell or chemical into the soil. Some plants do this. If it doesn’t work, you could try the ‘remedy’ I was once given: bury some bottles with the necks sticking out of the ground, facing slightly into the prevailing breeze. The story goes that the breeze makes a noise as it blows into/across the bottle and this frightens them away!
    It could provide lots of amusement for the neighbours at any rate, and might just work!

    • August 27, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

      That’s okay, laugh away, I find it tragically funny too! 🙂

      We have a cat who is a practised and successful rodent catcher, but she hasn’t managed to kill off the moles. I sometimes see her sitting patiently at an active mole hole waiting for them to surface.

      I see some people in our suburb have tried the bottle thing. Don’t know how successful it’s been.

  4. August 27, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    wow! i never knew what a yard plagued by moles looked like!

    • August 27, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

      It’s quite tragic isn’t it? And that’s only one piece of the lawn . . . 😉

  5. August 27, 2012 at 5:56 pm #

    Gosh, Lisa, that rather looks like our lawn at the moment too… we don’t have big piles of soil right now, but when you walk across the lawn, your feet sink in with every step.

    We’re also no fans of poisons, so I think we’ll just leave it for now – the moles seem to come and go as they please anyway… in a couple of weeks, they’ll move on into another garden.

    Well, I hope!

    • August 27, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

      Wonder why the moles are so active at the moment? I’d think with it being winter they would hibernate. Or don’t moles do that? Maybe I can find a “Mole special interest group” – something like the Spider Club! 🙂 – to answer some of those questions for us?

      • August 29, 2012 at 9:28 am #

        I don’t know whether moles hibernate, actually – given the amount of snow you guys had in the Southern Cape, I think it is quite possible!

        Yes, I remember the Spider Club – but as for “a Mole special interest group”, I haven’t heard of anything like that… yet! 😉

  6. August 27, 2012 at 10:32 pm #

    I have no idea but I do hope it works!!!

  7. August 29, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

    Hi Lisa
    This plant is called Bryophyllum proliferum or Green mother of millions. It comes from Madagascar and is highly invasive in South Africa. It will root from even a broken piece of leaf and it produces baby plantlets along the edges of the leaves that fall everywhere and grow. I planted a couple of them in my garden in the Eastern Cape 4 years ago and I have been trying to get rid of the young plants for the last three years! It certainly did not discourage the moles or the molerats (which may be what you have) in my garden. The plants are also poisonous to livestock. The plant has escaped from gardens in the areas around Durban, PE, Cape Town and most of Gauteng and is fast becoming an alien invader species. If you decide to grow it, make sure that any stems or leaves that you may cut off in the future are burnt, not sent to the rubbish dumps where they will get a chance to spread into the countryside. Such a pity as it make a lovely shrub with pretty flowers. For more information about moles and molerats, see the blog on my website – Those moles again!

    • August 29, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

      Hi Lorraine,

      Thanks for the identification and the information! I’m glad I found your site. It is an interesting looking plant but I don’t want to grow any invasive aliens in our garden.

      Thanks for coming to my site to leave a comment! 🙂

  8. August 30, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

    Wow … I love the comments on your post! Invasive species are the worst … except for those damn moles! How destructive they are … and SO unattractive, too! Good luck and keep us posted on the results. (This is why I love the blogosphere — here I am worrying about your lawn in South Africa … what a world!!)

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