Lion's Ear Overview
Leonotis leonurus is well-known for its colourful flower display coupled with its ability to attract nectar-feeding sunbirds by the dozen. Also known as Wild dagga, Leonotis leonurus is a common, widespread, robust, evergreen shrub and grows up to 2-3 m tall. The bright orange flowers bloom profusely in autumn, and apricot and creamy-white varieties are also found. It is an excellent plant for attracting wildlife as the flowers produce copious amounts of nectar which attract birds, bees, and butterflies. Leonotis leonurus is fast-growing and is both drought and frost hardy. Soil should be kept moist in summer but it can tolerate being dried out during the dry winter months. In the landscape Wild dagga can be used as a backdrop to smaller shrubs, it can also be used effectively as a low screen to hide or reduce visibility of undesired elements. This species is very easy to grow but will do best in rich, well-drained loamy soils with plenty of compost added. Plant in full sun and provide adequate water during the growing season, application of organic fertilizer can be applied at the beginning of the new season as well as a thick layer of organic mulch to stimulate vigorous growth. The stems are brittle and can break in strong winds. Plants should be cut right back at the end of winter. The leaves are highly aromatic when crushed and have a strong herby scent. The generic name Leonotis is derived from the Greek words 'leon-' meaning lion and '-otis' meaning ear. This refers to the pubescent upper lip of each flower that resembles a lion’s ear, hence the vernacular name. The specific epithet 'leonurus' means lion-coloured, a reference to the flower colour of some forms. Leonotis leonurus contains a chemical constituent leonurine that has been reported to be used in traditional medicine for curing a wide range of ailments including headaches, coughs, fever, asthma, haemorrhoids and dysentery.