Friday, August 28, 2009

A Lion in the Garden by Donna Duffy

My friend Beth – a Master Gardener in Boulder County – has an unusual plant growing in her yard. It’s called Leonotis leonurus, a member of the Lamiaceae family, commonly called Lions’ Ear. Beth got the seeds for this spectacular plant at the Denver Botanic Gardens sale, from a woman who ordered them on-line. I was fascinated with this plant, and did some research. Here’s what I learned.

Native to South Africa, Lion’s Ear is a tropical shrub that can grow rapidly to 3-6’ tall in a single season from seed planted in the garden in early spring (Beth’s is already 7 feet tall!). Tubular two-lipped orange flowers (typical mint family) appear in tiered whorls that encircle the square stems. Flower petals purportedly resemble lions’ ears. Flowers bloom in the fall from plants placed out in early spring. Oblanceolate to lance-shaped green leaves (to 2-4” long) are aromatic when bruised.
(Turn volume up while viewing video)
The plant is beginning to develop side shoots from the main stem. Photos on the web indicate this is typical for this plant at this time of year. It seems fitting that the Lions’ Ear will reach it’s full glory as we move into the sun sign of Leo.