Grandpa’s Pipe, Inch Plant, House Ginseng, Family Doctor, Golden Moustache, Heals 100 Ailments. etc.
Synonyms of Callisia fragrans (3) (Updated on 11-15-21 from Plants of the World Online): Rectanthera fragrans (Lindl.) O.Deg., Spironema fragrans Lindl., Spironema orthandrum Lindb.
Callisia fragrans (Lindl.) Woodson is the correct and accepted scientific name for this species. It was given this name and described as such by Robert Everard Woodson in Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden in 1942. It was first named Spironema fragrans Lindl. by John Lindley in Edward’s Botanical Register in 1840. It was also named Rectanthera fragrans (Lindl.) O.Deg. by Otto Degener in 1932 in Flora Hawaiiensis.
The genus, Callisia Loefl., was named and described by Pehr Loefling in Iter Hispan in 1758.
As of 11-15-21 when this page was last updated, Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 42 accepted species in the Callisia genus. It is a member of the plant family Commeninaceae with 39 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made on POWO.
This Callisia fragrans page has received more views and comments than any other plant on this site. All the comments and emails are very encouraging and I really appreciate them.
THERE ARE SEVERAL LINKS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR FURTHER READING.
My Callisia fragrans was given to me by the owner of Wagler’s Greenhouse in 2017. The owner of Wagler’s and I have been exchanging plants since 2013 and I always find something I don’t have. My sister and niece like to come down from Kansas City to buy plants from the local greenhouses and our first stop is usually Wagler’s. In fact, I lived here 3 years before I even knew there were 3 others. Anyway, the day I took them plant shopping I saw several of this plant I didn’t see before. I thought it was some type of Bromeliad because it looked similar. She said someone gave her a start and told her it was called “Grandpa’s Pipe”.
When I got home with several plants AGAIN, I took photos as usual then went to the computer. I had to know the genus and species of the Grandpa’s Pipe. Strangely enough, I typed the name in the search window and came up with Callisia fragrans. The name “Grandpa’s Pipe” was nowhere to be found as a common name on any of the websites I visited. How in the heck could I find the plant with that name when it isn’t even mentioned? Can my computer now read my mind?
I found out that this plant is NOT a species of Bromeliad as I suspected. It is a member of the Commelinaceae family (dayflower family and spiderwort family). SO, this plant is in the same family as the Tradescantia (Spiderworts).
Origin: Native to Mexico
Zones: 10b-11 (35 to 40° F/1.7 to 4.5° C)
Light: Light to part shade.
Soil: Well-drained potting soil
Flowers: White flowers in late winter-early spring. Hmmm… Mine started flowering in June.
Propagation: Stem cuttings (plantlets, obviously).
Right off the bat, “this plant” started growing like its life depended on it. It had found a new home with this crazy guy that likes weird plants and it decided to show me what it was made of. It soon started sending out shoots here and there and within no time my potting table looked like a Callisia freeway, sending roads everywhere it wanted to travel to.
Although some information online says the Callisia can be grown in sun to part shade, I think the full sun would not be a good idea. Mine did very well behind the shed with the other potted plants in light to part shade. Brighter light does seem to make the leaves have a reddish pigment, which according to the plant, is a good thing. I would imagine that full sun would burn this plant to a crisp, though.
San Marcos Growers says that when the Callisia fragrans is grown in more light, they will lay flat and they grow upright in more shade. When they grow flat they look like a cluster of Bromeliads. They say that the name Tradescantia dracaenoides and False Bromeliad are associated with this plant and the scientific name is invalid. I checked out the name and Plants of the World online says it is a synonym of Tradescantia macrophyllum. That species is native to central and southwest Mexico.
The Callisia fragrans has antiviral and antimicrobial properties. The leaves are used to treat various skin diseases, burns, and joint disorders. One website says chewing the leaves will quickly relieve headaches. Some information suggests the sun increases the medicinal quality. The leaves are said to be juicy and have a pleasant taste. Hmmm… Maybe I will have a sample.
Callisia fragrans, according to scientists, have biologically active substances, vitamins and minerals found at the optimum ratio.
Callisia fragrans has been studied in Russia for more than 20 years by scientists.
This plant is also known as the House Ginseng, Family Doctor, Golden Moustache, and Heals 100 Ailments.
The whole plant possesses curative compounds, although the juice has higher concentrations in the stem. Callisia juice contains two groups of flavonoids, quercetin, and kaempferol.
Quercetin has antioxidant and anti-allergic properties and reduces the permeability of the capillaries and stabilizes membranes. It is used to treat inflammatory diseases, arthritis, arthrosis, bronchial asthma, allergic skin, mucous diseases, and cardiovascular diseases.
Kaempferol is used as a tonic, capillary-reinforcing and as a diuretic. It is used to treat urinary system and allergic diseases.
In addition to flavonoids, Callisia has a group of steroids. Steroids act as biological controls to help the body to stimulate protein synthesis cells, contributing to the early renewal of muscle tissue cells. Callisia fragrans highly active substances, such as beta-sitosterol, helps reduce cholesterol levels in the blood and to strengthen and cleanse the walls of blood vessels. It is used for the treatment of atherosclerosis, metabolic diseases, endocrine system, inflammations of the prostate, etc.
In addition to flavonoids and steroids, Callisia fragrans include various vitamins and minerals. There is vitamin C, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and V15 (Pantothenic acid), ans vitamin RR (nicotine acid). It also contains the micronutrients copper, iron, nickel, among others.
Tha Callisia fragrans sure produced A LOT of new plants by the time cooler temperatures arrived in October. Now I was wondering what I was going to do with it over the winter in the house.
I decided about the only place to put it was in the dining room on top of this stand. It was tall enough to allow the trailing stems to hang.
The Callisia fragrans has really been a very interesting plant. Then on June 4, I noticed one of the plants on a stem was starting to flower.I have also noticed, for me anyway, once the parent plant gets a certain height it doesn’t seem to grow anymore. After a year or so, it isn’t very attractive. It has lost all its lower leaves leaving only a few on top and all the stems with new plants hanging down. I had been wondering about putting all the plantlets in their own pots and cutting off the older stem and regrowing it.
This one “plantlet” became really serious about flowering.
Since the Japanese Beetles wrecked havoc with the Chinese Elm trees, I had to move my potted plants to the front porch and the potting table to the back porch. The plant tables and the potting table were behind a shed under one of the larger elm trees. The beetles started chewing on a few plants not to mention they turned a shady area into nearly full sun.
The Callisia fragrans has been bothering me for a while, so on July 12 I decided I would work on it
I removed all the stems with the plantlets on them then removed the plantlets from the stems. Most of them had already started growing a few roots. I also cut off the main stem just below where the leaves were.
Some of the plantlets were pretty small, so I only re-potted the larger ones. Not there are eleven new pots plus the old stem still in its pot. I wonder what it will do now that it has no leaves?
The new plants didn’t blink a bit and are all doing just fine as of July 25 on the plant table on the front porch.
Ummm… Almost makes me speechless!
One thing is for certain, I have found out this plant is definitely a survivor. Not only did the plantlets readily take root, they are now sending out their own runners. The one that started flowering at the end of May still has flowers. Imagine flowers lasting for over three months! Not only that, but the smaller plantlets I discarded and didn’t put in any soil are STILL alive!
I have been fairly busy the past couple of summers so I didn’t take many plant photos in 2019 or 2020. My plants have survived on neglect just fine. The Callisia fragrans did just fine on the front porch and would have liked to have a little more water than it had, but it proved to be fairly drought tolerant.
I must tell you I have thoroughly enjoyed all the comments and emails I have received about this plant. It is very encouraging when I plant I have written about gets so much response.
I have really enjoyed my Callisia fragrans companion. Watching it grow has been very interesting for sure.
Over the winter, the two pots and their family are on a shelf in my bedroom in front of a west-facing window. They get plenty of light but not direct sun from that window this time of the year. The plants that need more light are on a shelf in front of a south-facing window in a cool bedroom.
I am finding out that these plants do well for a while and then may have difficulties. Mine have only done so-so in 2021 and Mrs. Wagler’s have been the same.
I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant. If you notice I made an error, please let me know in the comment section. You can email me at email@example.com.
FOR FURTHER READING:
PLANTS OF THE WORLD ONLINE (GENUS/SPECIES)
LEARN 2 GROW
GARDENING KNOW HOW
EWA IN THE GARDEN
THE NATIONAL GARDENING ASSOCIATION