Saturday 25 May
Dog’s ears (Cotyledon orbiculata)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Dog’s ears fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Dog’s ears description
The dog’s ears plant, well known to many gardeners, has handsome greyish-green leaves, with a red or pale margin (2) (5). The leaves are thick and succulent, and vary in shape from flat and rounded to almost finger-like (5). The flowers of this shrub, which hang down from the stem, are tubular structures with petals that curve out at the tip (2) (5). These bell-like flowers vary in colour, and may be deep red, pale orange or pink (6). The tall stems that bear the flowers were once used as flutes by early hunters, to mimic the call of a young klipspringer to lure adults within range of their arrows (5).
- Also known as
- pig’s ear.
- Height: up to 1 m (2)
- The transfer of pollen grains from the anther (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
- In taxonomy, (the science of classifying organisms), variety is the rank below subspecies. Members of a variety differ from others of the same species in relatively minor ways.
- Heywood, V.H. (1978) Flowering Plants of the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Goldblatt, P. and Manning, J. (2000) Cape Plants: A Conspectus of the Cape Flora of South Africa. National Botanical Institute of South Africa, Pretoria .
- Golding, J.S. (2002) Southern African Plant Red Data Lists. Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report No. 14. SABONET, Pretoria.
- Threatened Species Programme. (2007) Interim Red Data List of South African Plant Taxa. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria, South Africa. Available at:
- Paterson-Jones, C. and Manning, J. (2007) Ecoguide Fynbos. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa.
- Court, D. (2000) Succulent Flora of Southern Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands.
- PlantZAfrica (February, 2008)
- Eggli, U. (2003) Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Crassulaceae. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Germany.
- Allaby, M. (1998) Dictionary of Plant Science. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Robinson, S.A. (2001) Plant Light Stress. In: Encyclopedia of Life Sciences. John Wiley and Sons, New York.
- Hamilton, R.J. (2004) Plant Waxes. In: Encyclopedia of Life Sciences. John Wiley and Sons, New York.
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
Dog’s ears biology
The vividly coloured flowers of the dog’s ears, which appear in September until December (2), advertise the plant to birds and bees, which flit from flower to flower as they feed on the rich nectar (7). Pollination is believed to be carried out by sunbirds (8), a group of birds with narrow, pointed, downward curving bills (9), suited to probing flowers for nectar.
While light is essential for plants, excess light can be damaging. Under the bright southern African sun, the dog’s ears plant has evolved a mechanism to protect itself against damaging excess light. The leaves produce wax that reduces absorption by up to 50 percent, by increasing the reflective properties of the leaves (10). The wax produced by the leaf also helps prevent uncontrollable water loss (11), an important measure for plants growing in warm, dry conditions.
Dog’s ears plants also have properties which make them valued by humans. The succulent leaves of the dog’s ears are used medicinally, for the treatment of warts and abscesses (8), and when heated, the leaves form a substance used to treat boils and inflammations, particularly earache (7). Surprisingly however, animals that graze on this seemingly innocent plant may suffer from cramps, resulting occasionally in death (5).Top
Dog’s ears range
This species has an extensive distribution, from south-western Angola and Namibia to South Africa. In South Africa it occurs from the Cape Peninsula across the southern Karoo and Free State into the eastern provinces (6).Top
Dog’s ears habitatTop
Dog’s ears status
Variety Cotyledon orbiculata oblonga is classified as Lower Risk / Least Concern (LR/lc) in Swaziland on the Southern African Plant Red Data Lists (3). Variety Cotyledon orbiculata flanaganii is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the Interim Red Data List of South African Plant Taxa (4).Top
Dog’s ears threats
While one variety of dog’s ears (Cotyledon orbiculata var. flanaganii) is classified as Near Threatened on the Interim Red Data List of South African Plant Taxa (4), there is, at present, no information indicating what threats this species it may face. It is apparently, in some areas, a widespread and common species (3).Top
Dog’s ears conservation
At present, there are no specific conservation measures in place for this species. However, even if threatened in the wild, dog’s ears are a frequently cultivated species (8), and these populations will act as an insurance against this species extinction.Top
Find out more
For further information on dog’s ears see:
AuthenticationThis information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: email@example.comTop
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.