There’s a ‘lion’s ear’ in my back garden: 10 facts about Wild Dagga (Leonotis leonurus)

Written by Catherine Browne

As it has been a short week, we bring you a short blog to share a few facts about another gorgeous indigenous plant currently seen in bloom in Kirstenbosch, one that is common throughout South Africa. With its fluffy orange (or white) flowers and bright green foliage, Wild Dagga (Leonotis leonurus) adds a dash of colour to autumn gardens.

Now living in South Africa, I may not be that far off the mark with the title of this blog, as there are a few foreigners out there who do believe we have wild animals roaming our streets or as pets in our back yards. This seemingly silly idea wasn’t helped when not so long ago we saw in the news that just that was the case, when a lion was reportedly spotted walking the city streets in Gauteng. But all that aside… today we share some facts with you about Wild Dagga which has another common name- lion’s ear.

Here are 10 short facts about this attractive shrub you may not know:

  1. Wild Dagga is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae)
  2. Its name is derived from the greek ‘leon’ meaning lion and ‘otis’ meaning ear, as the corolla of the plant looks like a lion’s ear. ‘ leonurus’ meaning lion-coloured.
  3. This beautiful shrub is an excellent candidate to attract wildlife to your garden as the flowers produce nectar attracting birds (especially sun-birds), bees and butterflies

    © Catherine Browne
  4. An attractive aromatic shrub that can grow up to 2-3m tall. It has long narrow leaves, toothed on the upper edge and distinctively hairy, bright orange (sometimes white) tubular flowers which grow in whorls on sticky bracts.
  5. It is a fast growing, frost hardy, and moderately drought tolerant plant.
  6. How best to look after this plant: water well in summer. In the winter months it does not require much water. Best grown in composted, well drained loamy soils. Cut right back at the end of winter.
  7. Wild Dagga can be propagated from seed, cuttings or dividing up large clumps.
  8. Wild Dagga is widely used in traditional medicine and is believed to treat fevers, headaches, coughs and many other conditions. (Please consult with your medical practitioner before using this plant for medicinal purposes)
  9. It is also traditionally used as a charm to keep snakes at bay or as a remedy for snake bites.
  10. Even though the name of dagga is attached to this herb it has minimal narcotic properties and is not used as a substitute for cannabis.

So there you have it folks. Perhaps you too have this gem in your garden or may consider it  as an addition. Quite an unusual looking flower, but uniquely beautiful and a great indigenous choice. BotSoc encourages indigenous gardening and the nurturing of and awareness about our rich biodiversity.

Until next time…

Information sources:



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The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) are an NGO conserving and educating about biodiversity for over 100 years.

3 thoughts on “There’s a ‘lion’s ear’ in my back garden: 10 facts about Wild Dagga (Leonotis leonurus)”

  1. Could you perhaps give us a – what to do this month – in our gardens for indigenous plants?
    I’m never sure WHEN to cut back flowering shrubs. My Leonotis has bloomed, and faded. Will it flower again? Or shall I prune??


    1. Thank you for your feedback Diana, will see what we can do to try share further info and in future blogs take your suggestions into account


  2. As I understand it, the name lion’s ears does not come from what it looks like but from the fact that lions do to Leonotis what cats do to catnip.


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