Leonotis Leonaurus Common names: Wild Dagga (E), Wildedagga, Duiwelstabak (Afr), mvovo (X), utshwala-bezinyoni (Z)
Derivation of Name : Leonotis = from the Greek leon meaning lion and otis meaning ear, alluding to the resemblance of the corolla to a lion’s ear. leonurus = lion-coloured.
Surely every midlands garden has a spot for this rewarding shrub? Certainly, every bird lover knows this is an essential plant for the bird garden, particularly loved by sunbirds but also visited by bees, wasps, butterflies and children who love to suck the sweet nectar. The Zulu name which means “beer for the birds” is particularly apt. Plant one near your verandah to enjoy the visiting wildlife from your favourite chair.
Just when the mornings are starting to get really chilly, Leonotis brings a splash of cheerful colour to the grasslands in our district. Fire and frost may cut them back but they always sprout again, and can withstand considerable drought too. They are particularly lovely when found in clumps in the veld near the yellow Phymaspermum acerosum.
Leonotis leonarus grows up to two metres tall and has vivid orange tubular flowers which develop in compact whorls along the stem, opening at intervals to ensure colour for an extended period. Other members of this family are Leonotis Intermedia with long velvety stems and duller orange flowers in late summer and the daintier Leonotis dubia found in the forests.
Leonotis has become an invasive problem plant in Australia. Traditionally it is used to treat dysentry, headaches, coughs and asthma and as a charm to deter snakes and even to treat snake bites.