lions ear

Leonotis nepetaefolia
Photo: Sheldon Navie
Photo: Forest and Kim Starr
Photo: Sheldon Navie
Photo: J.M.Garg
Photo: Sheldon Navie
Photo: Sheldon Navie
Photo: Sheldon Navie
Photo: Sheldon Navie
Photo: Sheldon Navie
Photo: Sheldon Navie
Herb
Opposite
Simple
Orange
Green

An erect and sparsely branched large herbaceous plant which can reach 3m but more commonly  1-2 m in height. Its stem tends to be square with a distinct groove running lengthwise down the centre of each side. Leaves are simple, arranged oppositely along the stem, prominent veins with distinctly toothed margins. Its flowers are arranged in dense rounded clusters (5-6 cm across) in the upper leaf forks.Each of the tubular orange flowers (about 20 mm long) is surrounded by a persistent green structure made up of the fused sepals

Common names 
Also known as: klip dagga, bald head, bird honey, Christmas candlestick, Johnny Collins, lion's tail,
Family 
Lamiaceae
Deciduous 
No
Flowering time 
December to July
Native/Exotic 
Native
Origin 
Native to tropical and sub-tropical Africa
Notifiable 
No
State declaration 
Nil
Council declaration 
Class C – Containment and reduction
Known distribution 

Widely naturalised in northern Australia. Also occasionally recorded from south-eastern Queensland and the Perth region in south-western, Western Australia.

Habitat 

This species is mostly found in tropical regions, however can also be found in sub-tropical and warmer temperate areas. It is usually found in disturbed area, overgrazed pastures, waste areas, roadsides, waterways and riverbanks. 

Habit 

An upright annual herb slender, herb usually growing 1-2 m tall, but occasionally reaching up to 3 m in height. Forms dense thickets if not managed.

Lions ear can form dense stands / thickets impede small animal movement. Spiky seed capsules can impede larger animal movement and limit access to water sources. The dense stands inhibit native plant regeneration and can dominate riparian areas. 

Stem and leaves 

The stems are hollow but relatively robust, sparsely branched, and sparsely covered in small whitish hairs. Stem tends to be square with a distinct groove running lengthwise down the centre of each side. Leaves are simple varying from 4 to 20am long to 2 to 15cm wide and are much broader the L.  leonurus. Lower leaves tend to be larger with leaf size diminishing towards the top of the plant, and  are arranged oppositely along the stem. Leaf margins are distinctly toothed sparsely covered with short hairs.

Flowers and fruits 

The flowers are borne in dense pom pom like clusters 5-6 cm in diameter, 2 to 4 clusters appear in leaf axils towards the tops of the stems. The individual flowers are orange or reddish-orange through to cream in colour, tubular and  20-40mm long. The end of each flower is lobed with the upper lobe (lip) being 5to 7mm long of approximately twice the length of the lower.

Following flowering the remaining calyx expand with the ripening fruit to 15 to 25mm and form a hard and somewhat spiky ball when mature. Each individual fruit is a four-lobed 'capsule' comprising four 'seeds'. Seeds are dark brown or dull black in colour, are egg-shaped to triangular in shape.
 

Reproduction and dispersal 

This plant is often planted as an ornamental and reproduces entirely by seed. In ‘the wild seeds are dispersed by water and in mud adhering to animals, machinery and vehicles.

Similar species 

Lion's tail (Leonotis nepetifolia) is very similar to lion's ear (Leonotis leonurus) and relatively similar to knobweed (Hyptis capitata) and hyptis (Hyptis suaveolens). These species can be distinguished by the following differences:

lion's tail (Leonotis nepetifolia) has relatively broad lower leaves (4.5-20 cm long and 2-15 cm wide). Its orange flowers (about 20 mm long) are borne in relatively large globular clusters (50-60 mm across) directly on the upper stems (i.e. in sessile axillary clusters).

lion's ear (Leonotis leonurus) has relatively narrow lower leaves (5-8 cm long and 1-1.5 cm wide). Its orange flowers (30-55 mm long) are borne in very large globular clusters (up to 100 mm across) directly on the upper stems (i.e. in sessile axillary clusters).

knobweed (Hyptis capitata) has relatively broad lower leaves (5-15 cm long and 2-6 cm wide). Its small white flowers (5-6 mm long) are borne in small globular clusters (15 mm across) on stalks up to 5 cm long (i.e. in pedunculate axillary clusters).
 

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