Monday, 16 January 2017

Edible & Medicinal Ornamental Herb: Lamb's Ear

I was reminded today how much I love Lamb's ear (Stachys byzantina). I have it growing in my permaculture kitchen garden and food forest. Whenever I walk past it I have to stop and touch it's gorgeous leaves. 

We all love Lamb’s Ear for these big soft fluffy leaves and because it's a tough landscaping ornamental, but there is so much more to this plant - a native to Turkey, Armenia and Iran (also known as woolly woundwort). 

Lamb's ear - it's so soft. Every time I walk past it I just have to stop and feel it. Image source: Morag Gamble

Here is a brief overview of it's uses ....

  • ornamental - fabulous border plant and robust ground cover with interesting contrasting silvery grey-green leaves, summer flowering.
  • edible - young leaves in salad, steamed as a green, battered ('lambari' in Brazil), stir fried
  • medicinal - Homegrown antibacterial bandage speeds up the healing of cuts. Squash leaves and put on bee stings and insect bites. Infusions of dried leaves are good for colds, gum and throat infections, and asthma. Also, leaves simmered and cooled can be used as an eyewash for sties.
  • functional - leaves for compost and no-dig gardening, toilet paper, absorbent pads
  • ecological - pollinator plant, attract bees
  • sensory gardens - great in children’s gardens and healing gardens - people love to feel the thick felt-like leaves 
  • low-maintenance - Lamb’s Ear is an easy plant to care for and to propagate. It is hardy, drought-tolerant, frost-tolerant, grows well on sandy poor soil, likes sun and 

  • for urban gardens - hardy and grows well in containers

Do you use Lamb's Ear in other ways? It'd be great to hear from you. 

Flowering in Bairnsdale (Victoria, Australia) today. Image source: Morag Gamble


  1. I have always found the information that you share to be accurate and I appreciate that. It is so important not to be misleading about whether or not a plant is edible. I am curious about your source of information about lamb’s ear’s edibility. I checked Plants for a Future, which I trust for accuracy, and they do not say that it is edible. Thank you for your many valuable posts with simple, practical suggestions. I learn a lot from you.

    1. Hello Pamela, Thank you for your feedback. Information about this plant, beyond describing it as an ornamental is difficult to come by. A lot of the knowledge I have about plants has come to me via the old oral traditions, passed on by people from many cultures. I know people who eat it and eat it myself. As with many of the perennial leafy greens in my garden, I collect a leaf of this and a leaf of that - rather than a whole plate of Lamb's Ears for example. I have managed to find a couple of references to the young leaves being edible but these are also more sharing of experience, and in Brazil it being dipped in batter and cooked (a type of poor man's fish I suppose, a little like many people did with comfrey leaves too). In Brazil it is called Lambari leaf. It'd be great to find a conclusive scientifically written text so that I can share that too. Please let me know if you ever find one. Kind regards, Morag

    2. Lambari leaf

  2. It is also a fabulous bee attractor and the bumblebees in my garden love it.

  3. I did not realise lamb's ear had medicinal purposes ... I'll be doing more than petting mine from now on!

  4. Very nice. Sounds like you've made a peaceful interesting life with your family. I too grow Lambs Ear, at the moment it's frozen til spring. ;) Be well.

  5. a beautiful plant, didn't realize it had so many uses, i tried to get it to grow twice here, have since given up, too hot & dry
    thanx for sharing

  6. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to tolerate the heat and humidity up here in sunny Queensland. I love this plant!

    1. Except in exceptionally hot wet conditions, I manage to grow it in a drier, well drained spot in my SE QLD garden.

  7. it's good for chicken snacks, too. I just throw them my prunings, and sometimes they manage to grab some under the fence line.