I first saw Lion’s Tail, or Lion’s Ear, probably ten or fifteen years ago in Southern Living Magazine. It’s a bush that grows in the 6-foot tall range and can be 1.5 to 3.5 feet wide with tubular orange flowers in tiered whorls. At the time, I was trading seeds with little old ladies through the Georgia Market Bulletin. I managed to get a few seeds through a trade but the plant never looked as vibrant and showy as I remembered in the magazine. The flowers were pastel orange, at best. I never planted the seeds again but, all these years later, they continue to sprout from the spot where I had the one bush.
Over the years, I did a fair amount of online research trying to find seeds for the variety Southern Living had photographed. I got as far as figuring out that I needed to find seeds for the narrow-leafed version. However, every website offering these seeds was a dope-smoking site. I was certain my seed order would wind up on their desk the day of a drug bust and I’d wind up in jail so I never ordered the seeds. Yes, Myrtle, you can smoke this stuff or make tea with the leaves.
Imagine how my heart leapt for joy when I found the narrow-leafed version at Cunningham’s Holiday Herbal Celebration. I knew immediately it was the right kind and bought a healthy, one-foot shrub in a 4-inch pot. I wish the pot I selected had the identifying marker but it doesn’t and I didn’t notice it while at Cunningham’s.
Now, before you think Cunningham’s is in the dope peddling business, I should mention that this species of plant belongs to the mint family. Mint is an herb. Cunningham grows herbs.
In case you have not been able to get your hands on the kind with Really Orange Flowers, I think the name you should look for is Leonotis Leonorus. In this photo at Southern Living, you’ll notice the leaves are very narrow and the flowers orange.
The kind of Lion’s Tail you don’t want because the flowers are completely unspectacular and it tends to grow as a single stalk is Leonotis nepetifolia also known as Klip Dagga. The leaves can grow 4 inches wide and mine did. Here’s the only volunteer in my flower bed at the moment:
Leonotis nepetifolia is also the most potent for smoking, if you are so inclined. I don’t recommend such activities as I have somehow lost a few of my playing cards along the way even without smoking plants from the yard. This makes me certain that you will want to keep a full deck of cards on hand.
Last updated May 19, 2017