Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina)

The fleshy soft, hairy leaves delight children and any adult not too far gone to take pleasure in simple tactile sensations. The purple flowers make a gorgeous contrast to the whitish hairs of the leaves and stems, but appear only for a relatively short time. This is a garden favorite that seeds itself liberally: once you plant Lamb’s Ears, you have them forever, and they pop up in unexpected places. They can often be found in the city as an escape; these plants were growing on a bank in Beechview, where they were blooming in the middle of May.

Gray describes the genus Stachys; in his time, this particular species had not established itself in the wild enough for him to take notice of it.

STÂCHYS [Tourn.] L. HEDGE NETTLE. Corolla not dilated at the throat; upper lip erect or rather spreading, often arched, entire or nearly so; the lower usually longer and spreading, 3-lobed, with the middle lobe largest and nearly entire. Stamens 4, ascending under the upper lip (often reflexed on the throat after flowering); anthers approximate in pairs. Nutlets obtuse, not truncate. — Whorls 2-many-flowered, approximate in a terminal raceme or spike (whence the name, from stachys, a spike).

Although Gray does not describe the species S. byzantina, no description is really necessary. No other Stachys in our area has anything like the silver-haired foliage of this plant; it is nearly impossible to misidentify.

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2 responses

  1. misty

    Oh my thank you! I found a few of these in my yard and had been scouring the internet trying to identify them. Thank you for your wonderful identification guide!

    June 8, 2013 at 4:15 pm

  2. Janet

    Ditto the above comment! :) I had a vague recollection that they were a Stachys of a sort, but when I searched for Lamb’s Ear a few weeks ago, I kept getting results of Different plants… However, your photo here helped tremendously as I have the SAME SHOT on my camera :) and Congrats for the rest of your site – Very thorough, with Great photos! A joy I have bookmarked for future reference… Thanks !

    October 26, 2013 at 8:17 pm

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