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.