Thursday, December 17, 2009

Plant profile: Leonotis leonorus


Leonotis leonurus is in the genus Leonotis which consists of about 40 species of plants. Aside from that, there's not a lot to be found out about the plant online, nor have I seen them available for sale locally. It's such a striking plant that I find this odd; perhaps it has some evil tendencies that I'm not aware of.... yet.

Latin name: Leonotis leonurus
Common name: Lion's Tail, Wild Dagga
Originally from: All but one species, Leonotis nepetifolia (native to both tropical Africa and southern India), are native to southern Africa.
Blooms: Covered in frills of orange tubular flowers. It's quite a sight!
Light: Full sun to light shade
Water: Drought tolerant!
Where to see in P. Garden: Flowering right now, on the way up to the bench (in the red bed)

The most common use for the plant utilizes the picked and dried leaves brewed as a tea, which is said to be quite relaxing. One experimental study suggested that "the aqueous leaf extract of L. leonurus possesses antinociceptive, anti-inflammatory, and hypoglycemic properties; thus lending pharmacological credence to folk usage of the herb in the management and/or control of painful, arthritic, and other inflammatory conditions, as well as for adult-onset, type-2 diabetes mellitus in some communities of South Africa."

This plant is a big hit with hummingbirds, bees and butterflies, and is fast growing and is frost hardy. Ours went from a little rooted cutting Leah gave us back in Spring to a 5' tall and 4' wide clump in one season! I'll be moving ours a bit further back in the bed at some point, at which time I hope to divide it - they do get quite tall. Plants should be cut right back at the end of winter - ours is still flowering away madly in December so it will be a while before this gets a haircut.

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