Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Plant profile: Stachys byzantina (Lamb's Ears)

A lamb, earlier today
Lamb's Ears (the plant) is named rather obviously after lamb's ears (the ovine aural organ - see lamb, left) - and what a great comparison it is! Soft, fluffy and whitish, they are a fun plant to pet as you go by.

Very drought tolerant, this plant actually dislikes summer water and humidity in general which marks the leaves and makes them mouldy. It also likes low-quality soil. The perfect San Francisco garden plant.
"Helen von Stein"
and ladybug.
Latin name: Stachys byzantina ("STACK-iss biz-an-TEE-nah")
Common name: Lamb's Ear,Woolly Betony
Originally from: Turkey, Armenia and Iran.
Blooms: Light purple, white or pink flower spikes in late spring or summer
Light: Part sun, part shade.
Water: Rain is plenty. No summer water!
Where to find in P. Garden: We have several clumps of "Helen von Stein" in the left bed, and the regular kind in the middle back bed.

We bought some of the cultivar "Helen von Stein" which has larger, greener leaves and is more tolerant of various growing conditions. This has spread by seeds quite nicely - it isn't invasive for us, and makes a very useful border edging plant, since it only grows about 12' tall at most. We also have the regular smaller-leaved silvery version which is my favorite. This species also comes in a lime-yellow shade, as well as a subtly variegated version, though I haven't seen these for sale locally.

First introduced into cultivation in England in 1782, it has long been grown for it's foliage, though it does produce flower spikes with purplish flowers that rise up to 2'. In Brazil is used as a edible herb, called Lambari, that supposedly has some medicinal properties but I can't find out what they are as there's a fish that goes by the same name that appears to be far more popular on the internet!

UPDATE June 2016: The species has seeded all over the garden in a  lovely way, and appears totally drought proof. Lovely little lambies!

1 comment:

  1. Annie, you have now posted the cutest photo ever on the website. Lamby!


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