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Oreille de lion (Leonotis nepetifolia) - Jardin botanique Val Rahmeh-Menton © MNHN - Christophe Joulin
Oreille de lion (Leonotis nepetifolia) - Jardin botanique Val Rahmeh-Menton © MNHN - Christophe Joulin

Christmas candlestick

The Lion's Tail is a plant which can reach a height of 3 metres. It has multiple uses: it is used as a decorative plant thanks to its orange “tassels” which attract many pollinators. It is also used for its various medicinal properties.

Identity Card

Common name
Christmas candlestick, Lion’s ear
Binominal name
Leonotis nepetifolia (L.) R.Br.


Phlomis nepetifolia L.

Detailed Informations

Area of origin
Tropical Africa


Leonotis comes from Greek leon: lion and otion: ear, and nepetifolia means “with leaves resembling those of Nepeta” (other genus in the Lamiaceae family).

Description and flowering period

This fast-growing perennial rapidly reaches 1 to 3 meters in height. Its green, deciduous and extremely soft leaves are opposite, oval in shape with serrated margins. Its compound flowers are borne in dense 4cm spherical clusters placed at regular intervals along the tall flower stalk. These spherical clusters are prickly and composed of densely packed 2cm long tubular lipped flowers. They are a light-orange tinged with hints of tangerine. They are very attractive to butterflies, bees as well as nectar-eating birds. The fruits are protected by persistent sepals.


It has to be planted in a well-drained soil, in a full sun or part shade location, sheltered from strong winds.


  • Medicinal: It is traditionally used in folk medicine all over austral Africa by the Hottentot and Bochiman people to treat different ailments. The plant is thought to have anti-inflammatory and hypoglycaemic properties (used to treat diabetes, pains and arthritis). In Trinidad, Leonotis nepetifolia is used as a herbal tea to treat coughs, abdominal pains, palpitations as well as anxiety and relieve high blood pressure.
  • Ornamental: Dry flowers are used by florists.


Due to its high Leonurine and other alkaloids content, the plant has psychoactive properties and has been used in some countries as an alternative to medical marijuana. The flowers and leaves are dried and smoked or infused to create a soothing herbal tea.

Translated by: François Saint-Hillier – MNHN

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