Leonotis leonurus

Leonotus 2 Leonotus 1 Leonotus 3

 

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at an attractive specimen of the Mint Family or Lamiaceae.

Leonotis leonurus (Wild dagga in English, Wildedagga in Afrikaans and lebake in Sesotho), is a shrub that typically grows to 2 – 3 m in height. Leonotis is derived from the Greek words Leon –“lion” and Otis -“ear”. Leonurus means “lion coloured” referring to the mane-like appearance and also colouring of the inflorescence. It is widespread throughout S.A – from the W Cape – Mpum., and tends to grow in grassland amongst rocky outcrops up to 2000 m A.S.L..

The specimen photographed was observed on the Kloof Mountain Trail. It is one of few plants adapted to growing on very shallow and nutrient poor lithic soils. The stem of L. leonurus is 4 sided, woody and velvety from the base. The leaves are long and narrow (approx. 60- 70 mm by 20 -30 mm), rough above and velvety below with serrated edges. Inflorescence is whorled in compact clusters (up to 3) on the stem. The flowers are tubular (approx. 70 mm long) and a bright-burnt orange colour. Flowering take place in autumn – End Feb/early March – Sep. Uses:

Cultural uses

Used in traditional medicine to treat fevers, headaches, coughs, dysentery and many other conditions (see uncle Google for more – he knows everything.). It is also used as a remedy for snake bite and as a charm to keep snakes away.

Gardening

Makes for an attractive garden plant which is well suited to the Eastern Free State as it is relatively hardy and frost resistant. It also attracts a variety of birds and insects as a result of the copious quantities of nectar it produces. L. leonurus can be propagated from both seed and cuttings.

Food

The nectar is sucked by children as a type of natural “sweet”.

Ecology

The flowers are pollinated by insects and birds of various species, which in return are privy to the flowers nectar. Insects and birds often pollinate several plant species and their presence ensures the continued existence of these species, thus helping to maintain the ecological integrity of an area and preserving local biodiversity.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for L. leonurus has been recorded as of Least Concern.

Damien1-100x100Article and photographs by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve