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Pigs’ Ears, “plakkies” (Afrikaans) Cotyledon orbiculata, fast-growing succulent is well known to gardeners, forms a low shrub and adds colour to the winter garden. Forms with handsome grey leaves provide year-round interest in the garden.

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These are photographs of ones I planted in a garden 2 years ago. What a beautiful display they make. 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.

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Uses and cultural aspects
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, in particular, earache.

Van Wyk et al. (1997) report that a single leaf is eaten as a vermifuge and that the warmed juice can be used as drops for toothache or earache. They also report that the juice has been used to treat epilepsy.

This is an easy to grow plant suitable for a number of places in the garden. Cotyledon orbiculata is an ideal plant for the rockery, but also grows well as a pot plant placed on a veranda (stoep). It will also add texture and form to the well-drained flower border. When planted as a pot plant, good drainage is important. It is often found in full sun, but also grows well in semi-shade under trees. This is an ideal plant for the water-wise gardener.

 

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