Scientific name: Stachys byzantina
- Order: Lamiales
- Family: Lamiaceae
- Genus: Stachys
- Species: S. byzantina
Part of the mint family, lamb’s ear is a fast-growing perennial with distinct fuzzy gray-green leaves. This popular ornamental plant is also called woolly hedgenettle, and it is native to the Middle East. In fact, the species name, byzantina, is a nod to the ancient Byzantine Empire, which was located in that area. During the summer, tiny magenta or purple blossoms appear in whorls on flower spikes that can grow to be over a foot tall.
Lamb’s ear is commonly used as an ornamental plant or ground cover, but it also has many medicinal properties. The velvety leaves can be used as an antibacterial bandage for cuts, and when crushed, can reduce inflammation from insect bites and stings. A refreshing tea made from dry lamb’s ear leaves is said to help treat sore throats. What’s more, fresh leaves are a great addition to salads or as a lightly cooked vegetable, offering a fruity taste.
Interestingly enough, lamb’s ear can also be used as a makeshift toilet paper, since the leaves are very absorbent!