Tolmiea menziesii

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Tolmiea menziesii
Tolmiea menziesii - Youth-on-Age.jpg
Scientific classification OOjs UI icon edit-ltr.svg
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Saxifragales
Family: Saxifragaceae
Genus: Tolmiea
T. menziesii
Binomial name
Tolmiea menziesii

Tolmiea menziesii ( /tɒlˈməmɛnˈzzi./ ) [1] is a species of flowering plant in the family Saxifragaceae. It is known by the common names youth on age, [2] pick-a-back-plant, [3] piggyback plant, and thousand mothers. It is a perennial plant native to the West Coast of North America, occurring in northern California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and southern Alaska. It occurs as a naturalised plant or garden escapee in Scotland, parts of Wales, Northern Ireland and northern and western parts of England. [4] :120



Piggyback dominating a habitat in Stewarton, Scotland. Tolmiea menziesii, the Pick-a-back, Piggyback or Thousand Mothers plants monoculture.JPG
Piggyback dominating a habitat in Stewarton, Scotland.

Tolmiea menziesii has hairy, five to seven-lobed, toothed leaves and a capsule fruit containing spiny seeds

It bears many small flowers in a loose raceme. Each flower consists of a tubular purple-green to brown-green calyx and four linear or subulate (awl-shaped) red-brown petals, about twice the length of the sepals.

It has unusual reproductive habits. It grows plantlets from the petiole near the base of each leaf. The plantlets drop off, fall in the soil, and take root there. [5] It will also reproduce by rhizomes and by seeds.

Crushing the leaves of this plant releases a strong cucumber-like odour. (2E,6Z)-2,6-nonadienal was identified as the source of this odor. In nature, banana slugs, Ariolimax columbianus, are selective in their diet and were not observed to feed on this plant. In a feeding experiment, the slugs rejected lettuce leaves that had been treated with (2E,6Z)-2,6-nonadienal. [6]

Tolmiea menziesii foliage. Tolmiea menziesii.JPG
Tolmiea menziesii foliage.


The genus was named after the Scottish-Canadian botanist William Fraser Tolmie, while the species name refers to Archibald Menzies, the Scottish naturalist for the Vancouver Expedition (17911795).

The plant was formerly considered to be the only member of a monotypic genus until diploid populations (due to autopolyploidy) were split off as a separate species T. diplomenziesii from the tetraploid populations. [7] [8]


Tolmiea menziesii is commonly cultivated as an ornamental plant, for use as a house plant or planted as a groundcover in gardens. [9] It requires moisture and does not tolerate much sun or dryness.

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  1. Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  2. USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Tolmiea menziesii". The PLANTS Database ( Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 11 December 2015.
  3. BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  4. Blamey, M.; Fitter, R.; Fitter, A (2003). Wild flowers of Britain and Ireland: The Complete Guide to the British and Irish Flora. London: A & C Black. ISBN   978-1408179505.
  5. Yarbrough, J. A. (1936). The foliar embryos of Tolmiea menziesii. American Journal of Botany 23(1) 16-20.
  6. Wood, William F.; Ligare, Marshall (2008). "2E,6Z)-2,6-Nonadienal a banana slug antifeedant from crushed leaves of Tolmiea menziesii and Disporum smithii". Biochemical Systematics and Ecology. 36: 875–876. doi:10.1016/j.bse.2008.10.001.
  7. "Flora of North America". Retrieved 2014-06-03.
  8. Soltis, D. E. and B. A. Bohm. (1986). Flavonoid chemistry of diploid and tetraploid cytotypes of Tolmiea menziesii (Saxifragaceae). Systematic Botany 11(1) 20-25.
  9. Las Pilitas Horticulture database: Tolmiea menziesii (Piggyback plant)