Leonotis leonurus Wilde dagga/Wild dagga /Umfincafincane: Standing 2-5 metre high, this shrub has a thick woody base and all parts of the plant have a strong smell. The leaves grow opposite each other on the stems, long and narrow, toothed in the upper half and distinctly hairy. Bright orange tubular flowers are borne in characteristic rounded groups, neatly arranged on the branch ends. The hairy flowers resemble lions’ ears, hence the name ‘leonurus’.
Look out for these beautiful plants in the entrance garden on Park Island and try growing them in your own garden. The flowers/nectar are very attractive to birds, especially sunbirds and bees. They do well in the sandy soil of the Marina and there is also a white flowering variety.
Medicinal uses: Numerous traditional uses have been recorded. The leaves or roots are widely used as a remedy for snake bites and also to treat other bites and stings. Externally, decoctions have been applied to treat boils, eczema, skin diseases, itching and muscular cramps. Internally, decoctions are used for coughs, colds, influenza, bronchitis and also high blood pressure and headaches. Leaf infusions have been used for asthma and viral hepatitis.
It is said that the Nama people smoked the leaves and used the powdered leaf to make small cakes, which were chewed or eaten.
Active ingredients: leonotis species contain a volatile oil and marrubin, an unusual diterpenoid.
Photos: Cherry Giljam