Pig's ear


Pig's ear

Cotyledon orbiculata

Scientific name

Cotyledon orbiculata is an extremely variable species that grows to approximately 1.3 m in height. It has gray-green leaves that can be up to 13 by 7 cm with a white powdery substance on them that helps reflect sunlight and conserve water. The shape of the leaves was thought to have a resemblance to a pig's ear, thus the common name. The bell-shaped flowers are small, usually less than 3 cm in length, and droop from the top of a 60 cm tall stalk. The flowers are usually orange-red but yellow varieties also exist.

The brightly coloured flowers attract bees and birds, which feed on the nectar of the plant. The silver-grey leaves of some forms owe much of their attractive colouring to a powdery white coating which may assist in reflecting much of the sun's heat to prevent excessive water loss from the thick succulent leaves.

This is a well-known medicinal plant. The fleshy part of the leaf is applied by many South Africans to soften and remove hard corns and warts. The Southern Sotho use a dried leaf as a protective charm for an orphan child and as a plaything. In the Willowmore District, the heated leaf is used as a poultice for boils and other accessible inflammations, earache in particular .

Propagation instructions

By seed

Plants may be grown from seed, but take care in the early stages not to over-water. The best time to sow the seed is in spring, and they should be kept moist, not waterlogged. Once the seedlings have reached 20-40 mm they can be transplanted.

By cutting

Taking tip cuttings is the fastest method of increasing plant numbers; they must be kept fairly dry to prevent rotting. Once the tip cuttings have rooted they can be transplanted in a medium of 2 parts gravel to 1 part compost.

References and further reading

PlantZAfrica profile »

Wikipedia page »

Image credit: Abu Shawka
Seedbank Quantity
Arundel Seedbank 1000
Total 1000

This table below shows how many plants we are trying to obtain for this species.

Site Area Quantity
Site #2 Delft 4
Site #3 Delft 2
Site #8 Delft 4
Site #9 Delft 5
Site #15 Rosebank 20
Site #16 Rosebank 20
Site #22 Rosebank 30
Site #23 Rosebank 40
Site #27 Mowbray 80
Site #30 Rosebank 30
Site #40 Rosebank 40
Site #44 Rosebank 100
Site #52 Rosebank 40
Site #54 Langa 30
Site #61 Claremont 5
Site #64 Mowbray 40
Site #102 Newlands 5
Site #96 Bonteheuwel 5
Site #103 Mowbray 5
Site #95 Bonteheuwel 5
Site #104 Athlone 5
Site #105 Rosebank 5
12 other sites 285
Total 520

Can you help grow this species?

We are in need of this species! Can you help? Maybe you have this species at home, or perhaps you can collect seeds or cuttings (if applicable) from friends or from a public space. If so, why don't you help establish this species in areas where it is much needed!

I can help!

Important characteristics

This species was selected because it has various important characteristics.

This is a bird-friendly species

It provides medicinal value

Drought-resistant

Good potplant

Easy to grow

Suitable for clay soil

Suitable for sandy soil

It provides food for:

Honeybees/flies

Southern double-collared sunbird

Cotyledon orbiculata is indigenous to: Cape Flats Dune Strandveld

Communitree Newsletter

Receive our monthly updates in your mailbox

Our sponsors

We thank our 2019 sponsors for their support in our work. If your company or organisation wants to help support Communitree, click here to get in touch.