Lions tail, Lions ear, Wild dagga.
This is a fast growing somewhat tender shrub which produces wonderful whorls of bright orange/red flowers on new growth in autumn each year. It will continue to flower until the frosts kill off the young stems. In some cooler climates this is grown as an annual or in containers inside and moved into the open during summer. In New Zealand it grows quite well but in frost prone areas will need some protection from the frost.
Growing up to 2 metres high on tall slender stems from a woody base its leaves are about 100mm long and 10mm wide, rough to touch on top, downy beneath and slightly curved downward. It is excellent for dry areas.
Flower whorls appear late in the growing season and flower in autumn producing long curved orange/red flowers continually tiered up the stems. This arrangement is typical of the mint family to which it belongs and is an excellent example of flowers forming whorls around the square stem.
While the typical flowers are orange/red, white, yellow and apricot flower colours can be seen as well. The tubular flowers clearly show the coevolution of African plants with African sunbirds whi8ch have curved beaks to feed on the large amounts of nectar inside the curved flowers. Butterfly’s and insects also enjoy the nectar.
It gets its name from Leon meaning Lion and otis meaning ear and urus meaning lion coloured. It does have some medicinal and very mild psychoactive properties hence the name wild dagga.
It is one of about 30 species of Leonotis in South Africa where this species is very common. As a popular plant it has been growing in various countries and has now naturalised in Australia, California and Hawaii.
To keep it as a nice garden plant regular hard pruning in late spring is necessary to produce strong flowering stems in autumn. Prune in spring after all the frosts have finished. Propagate is from seed or cuttings.
Visit my Pinterest site to see mages of the flowers, the white form and apricot forms as well as South African Sunbirds. Leonotis leonurus.