Answering the Myth: Is the Lamb’s Ears Plant Poisonous?

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Stachys byzantina, also known as Lamb’s Ears plant or woolly hedge nettle, is a herbaceous perennial with soft, velvety silver foliage growing 12” – 18” inches tall.  However, they occasionally produce light purple flowers on tall spikes.  

This member of the Stachys genus of the Lamiaceae family is native to the Middle East region, particularly Turkey, Armenia, and Iran.

wooly leaves of the lambs ear plant  (Stachys byzantina)Pin

Wooly lamb’s ear and Woolly hedgenettle are other names for lamb’s ear plant. It refers to the soft, velvety texture of the plant’s silver-green leaves that resemebles a lamb’s ear.

Rabbit ears plant is another name for lambs ear plant. The plant is characterized by its soft, velvety leaves that resemble a rabbit’s ear, hence the common name.

Characteristics of Lamb’s Ear

These plants get their name due to the texture and color of their hairy leaves. The curvy leaves are densely coated with silver-white, silky-lanate hairs, resembling a lamb’s ears. 

The color of the silvery foliage stands out when experimenting with colors in your landscape design.

The plant has spike-like stems and flaunts small, light purple lambs ear flower clusters in late spring and early summer.

When freshly crushed, the rabbit ear plant has a vaguely sweet smell, but it is not treasured for it blooms and is not likely to make an appearance in your cut flower spikes arrangements anytime soon.

The lambs ear plant has a spreading habit and grows into a dense clump of thick, soft, velvety, silver-green leaves that form a low-spreading groundcover.

Now, you might be wondering, is lamb’s ear invasive?

Lamb’s ear plant is generally not considered invasive. It is a well-behaved perennial plant that does not aggressively spread or take over other plants. 

However, it is always a good idea to monitor its growth and prevent it from self-seeding excessively.

Growing Lamb’s Ear

Lamb’s ears are easy-to-grow herbs that provide ideal ground cover. There are several cultivars of this herbaceous perennial in the mint family (Lamiaceae) native to the Middle East that offer unique characteristics. 

Warm soil temperature aids germination, so place the seeded tray or pots on a heating mat or a warm space, such as the top of the refrigerator or a table above a heat vent. 

Harden off the seedlings before planting them outdoors. Spring is the best time to set out plants so they can become established during cooler weather.  

This herbaceous plant is evergreen in mild climates. In colder areas, the leaves will die back to the ground during harsh winters and reemerge in the early spring.

Lamb’s Ears plants are drought-resistant, self-seeding, and highly resilient. Avoid watering the top of the new plants; the leaves will rot or develop fungal leaf spots or powdery mildew if they get too wet.  

The only unforeseen circumstances are root rot, pests, or other fungal diseases that might take hold if you leave the dying foliage to rot.

Close-up of fuzzy green sage leavesPin
Photo Credit: Instagram @moananursery

This perennial thrives in poor soil that is well-drained and has a slightly acidic pH. You can skip giving your lamb’s ear fertilizer in most situations since it prefers soil that is not rich.  

Avoid overwatering as wet leaves invite disease, as do high humidity summers. 

From midsummer, these tough native plants bloom their golden heads off in sun or light shade and mix well with other perennials, annuals, and shrubs.  

In desert areas and high-heat locations, it can profit from partial shade. Excessive heat and dry conditions will cause the fuzzy leaves to scorch. Leaving dead leaves and growth puts the plant at more risk of pests and disease. 

However, it is prone to fungal disease due to its sensitivity to humid conditions and poorly draining soil. In the humid months of summer, it can develop rot and leaf spots, even if the soil is well-draining.  

Diseased foliage can sometimes attract sowbugs, not insects but woodlouse, land crustaceans that feed on fungi and bacteria on dead and rotting vegetation. 

They are considered invasive, often growing back even when pulled out. Because of this, some people often consider it a weed.

They are grown in flowerbeds and borders in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 8. 

Lamb’s Ear in Landscape

A cultivar of this plant, known as the Silver Carpet, shimmers stunningly under the moonlight and adds value to rock gardens and garden landscapes.

Some growers find the flower stalks of lamb’s ear gangly in appearance. Deadheading the plant keeps it looking tidy and helps prevent pests. 

The planting holes should not be any deeper than the pots they were originally growing in. To prevent overcrowding, space the plants at least a foot (30 cm.) or so apart.

Frosty white flower with dewdrops against rocks.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @flowersofcbr

See this plant in the following landscapes: 

  • ‘Helene von Stein’ (synonymous with ‘Big Ears’)
  • ‘Primrose Heron’
  • ‘Silky Fleece’ 
  • ‘Silver Carpet’ 
  • ‘Silver Queen’ 
  • ‘Striped Phantom’ 
  • ‘Big Ears’, 
  • ‘Cotton Boll’

Is Lamb’s Ears Plant Poisonous Or Toxic?

Is the lambs ear plant poisonous? This is one of the frequently asked questions about the lamb’s ears. 

Most people are suspicious of this fuzzy herb because of its readiness to grow in full sun and dry soil.

No, lamb’s ears plants are not poisonous or toxic; in fact, they are quite the opposite.

The plant is known as woolly woundwort or Woolly Betony due to its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties. 

Velvety green leaves of a plant, close-up shot.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram

Here are some examples of lambs ear medicinal uses:

  • The plant contains betonicine, stachydrene, and trigonelline. Another ingredient of the herb is tannins.
  • In the past, it was used as a handy dressing and natural band-aid for cuts and injuries. 
  • The leaves are super absorbent and help the blood clot quickly.  
  • Due to its analgesic properties, it has also been used as a poultice. 
  • The leaves are wrapped over bee or wasp stings to cure the pain and swelling.
  • The leaves are an excellent alternative for toilet paper, female hygiene products, and makeup removal swabs. 
  • Washing the eyes with a weak infusion of the plant has helped heal some common eye diseases. 

The various benefits of the plant negate the belief that lambs’ ears are toxic plants.

However, it’s important to note that these uses are based on traditional knowledge, and further scientific research is needed to validate their effectiveness.

How about this: is lamb’s ear poisonous to dogs? Or is lamb’s ear toxic to cats?

Stachys byzantina is not poisonous to dogs. In fact, the plant is generally considered safe for pets to ingest. 

However, consuming large quantities of the plant may cause mild gastrointestinal upset, such as vomiting or diarrhea, in some dogs. 

If your dog shows any symptoms of illness after ingesting lamb’s ear or any other plant, consult your veterinarian immediately. 

Moreover, keep in mind that many plants are toxic to dogs, so it’s always a good idea to supervise your pets while they are around plants and make sure they are not chewing on anything harmful.

What Happens When Lamb’s Ears Plants Are Ingested?

Is lamb’s ear edible? can you eat lambs ear?

Stachysbyzantine is an edible herb; this means chewing or ingesting. It has no harmful effects. 

Lamb's ear plant with soft, fuzzy leaves.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @foreverfiberarts

So what are lambs ear uses?

  • The plant has a mild fruity taste and is typically ingested by preparing a concoction mixed with spices, herbs, or vanilla extract.
  • The woolly leaves are dried, powdered, or chopped to make an infusion or medicinal tea. 
  • The refreshing tea can help cure fever, diarrhea, mouth sores, candida overgrowth, and internal bleeding.
  • The lamb’s ear plant also has various culinary uses. 
  • Add the leaves to fresh salads, steamed, or stir-fried with other greens. 
  • Its taste is similar to a combination of apples and pineapples. 
  • Young, fresh leaves are best for eating.

While it might not be toxic, excessive ingestion of lambs ear plants by cats, dogs, or horses can cause digestive upsets.

Which Parts Of The Lamb’s Ears Plant Are Safe?

This entire plant is safe, making it a good plant for kids

Enjoy feeling the velvety leaves of lambs ears plant between your fingers or brew its silver leaves, pink flowers, or stems to prepare a refreshing beverage.

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