Leonotis leonurus | Lions Ear (Wild Dagga) (different than Leonitis nepetifolia | Klip Dagga)
Lions Ear, also known as Lions Tail, Lions Claw, Minaret flower, and Cape Hemp, is a semi-evergreen, upright, tropical shrub in the mint family that’s native to South Africa. Plants have medium-dark green leaves and square stems that are typical of the mint family. The bright-orange blooms are fuzzy, tubular, showy, and separated into tiered whorls that each resemble a lion’s ears. Blooms start in summer and persist through fall. The globular dried flower heads are sharp to the touch, so wear gloves when handling or harvesting.
This stunner is easy to grow in full sun to partial shade and is not particularly picky about soil type, growing well in average, medium, or well-drained soils with average moisture. Grown as a perennial in ideal conditions, this plant can grow into a woody shrub becoming five feet tall and four or more feet wide. Wild Dagga is relatively salt-tolerant, making a nice addition to a coastal garden, and is also drought tolerant, making it suitable for xeriscaping. However, plants prefer regular summer water to perform best. Makes a great accent plant, to create a screen in the garden, or to just grow out in a container next to the driveway or on the patio.
Used for cut or dried flowers in floral arrangements.
Leonotis leonurus is widely known for its medicinal and mild psychoactive properties. The nomadic KhoiSan tribe of Africa have used this plant traditionally as a stimulant and an inebriant for social occasions, and as an herb for all kinds of ailments. It has an active component called marrubiin, which has both antioxidant and cardioprotective properties and is known to significantly improve myocardial functions. Infusions can be made from the entire plant. Leaves and flowers are traditionally smoked or chewed on ceremonial occasions to induce trance-like states. The flowers, seeds, leaves and stems are used widely to treat jaundice, tuberculosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, muscle cramps, dysentery, viral hepatitis, and diarrhea. The roots, leaves, and bark can be used as an emetic for bee stings, snakebites, and scorpion stings. The roots are also commonly brewed as a tea. Lion’s tail, believe it or not, is a fairly popular smoking alternative to tobacco or hemp, giving a mild euphoric and uplifting effect.
Lions Tail is deer resistant and attracts bees, birds, butterflies and hummingbirds. Plants are virtually pest and disease free in the garden.
Type: Annual or perennial
Sun exposure: Full sun to part shade
Mature height: 4-5 ft
Mature width: 3-4 ft
Hardiness zones: 8-11