What is Leonotis?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

The Lamiaceae family is home to the leonotis genus of flowering plants. Leonotis is a tropical genus that consists of nine different species. The spiny exotic plants feature several unique characteristics, including a drooping array of vibrant flowers, and a round mound of spikes.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

These shrubby perennials are also known as lion's ear. This is due to the corolla of the plant resembling the tawny tuft of the ear of a lion. Each fast-growing flower is also covered with tiny hairs, further adding to the lion's ear resemblance. Other names for the African and Indian plants include lebake, wild dagga, minaret flower, and umhlalampetu.

As the flowers of the leonotis grow, they form a distinctive pattern. Once one flower forms, the velvety stem of the plant extends through it, allowing another flower to grow above the previous cluster. This continues several times until the plant consists of a long stem intermittently spliced by blooming groups of tubular flowers.

Most flowers of the leonotis variety are a vibrant orange hue. Some may be a lighter shade of apricot or even a creamy white color. Flowering typically occurs during the autumn months, with blossoms arranged in tightly-packed whorled arrangements.

Though lion's ear requires plenty of water to thrive and rapidly grow, it will remain alive during a drought after it has been well-established within the land. The shrubby plants have thick, wooded stems that make them hardy plants. Full sun and spring fertilization are recommended for best results with this plant. At full height, the plant may grow up to 6 feet (1.8 meters).

Flowering leonotis plants can be found growing in rocky terrain. Considered semi-evergreen plants, they also thrive in tall grassland areas and riverbanks. In both private and business property settings, people often use the flower stalks for attractive landscaping displays.

Leonotis is considered a very attractive plant for both humans as well as wildlife. Hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and other garden guests flock to the plants regularly. This is due to the plentiful nectar found within the plants' flowers.

Some herbal lore also accounts for the plant being used to treat several health complaints, such as skin rashes, cough and cold, intestinal worms, and menstrual cycle difficulties. The herb is purportedly used both internally as well as externally. Caution should be exercised when taking leonotis as a supplement, however, as it may cause vomiting or dizziness. Women who are pregnant, may become pregnant, or nursing should avoid the herb.

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for wiseGEEK and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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