Leonotus Leonurus

October 7, 2014

After a few years of garden diligence, we’ve arrived at the fine tuning stage of yard design… looking for the just the right flowers to go in certain corners of the yard to fill in empty spots and add a final bit of accent drama and/or charm.

Last week, the guy at Three Palms Nursery pointed out that the more specifications we have for a given area, the fewer are the options. For example, “We need a drought tolerant plant that grows well in deep shade, to a height of 3-4 feet, with stalks that will drape nicely over a low fence, preferably a perennial that blooms most of the year with a colorful flower easily seen from a distance.”

Uh.. that would be hard to find.

While at Three Palms, we bought, among other things, a cool looking plant with a pretty orange flower called Lion’s Tail (leonotus leonurus). And today, to my huge surprise, I happened to run into a hillside adjacent to Putah Creek with a whole bunch of them.


NICE, huh?

These don’t fully satisfy the need described above (they require full sun, for example), but may work really well in another hole needing filling.

Here’s what I found out about them:

Leonotis leonurus (Lion’s Tail) – An erect evergreen shrub to 4 to 6 or more feet tall… from late spring through fall appear the fuzzy orange curved tubular flowers in whorls at spaced intervals….plant in full sun in a well-drained soil. This plant is drought tolerant but can tolerate and thrive with regular irrigation and it can survive temperatures down to 20 degrees F…often treated as a perennial…it responds well to pruning….useful as a screening plant….known to attract birds, bees and butterflies to the garden.    

And, most interestingly:

Leonotis leonurus is also known as Wild Dagga because of its traditional medical uses in South Africa. The dried leaves and flowers have a mild calming effect when smoked. In some users, the effects have been noted to be similar to cannabis. It has also been reported to cause mild euphoria, visual changes, dizziness… etc. It is not currently scheduled under federal law. The picked and dried leaves are also commonly brewed as tea. 

Who knew? Let the planting begin.

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