Cotyledon orbiculata

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Pig's ear
Cotyledon orbiculata - pigs ear - Cape Point - South Africa 2.JPG
Scientific classification
C. orbiculata
Binomial name
Cotyledon orbiculata

Cotyledon elata
Cotyledon oblonga
Cotyledon ovata
Cotyledon ramosa

Cotyledon orbiculata, commonly known as pig's ear or round-leafed navel-wort, is a South African succulent plant belonging to the genus Cotyledon.


C. orbiculata is an extremely variable species that grows to approximately 1.3 m (4.3 ft) in height.[1] It has gray-green leaves that can be up to 13 by 7 cm (5.1 by 2.8 in) with a white powdery substance on them that helps reflect sunlight and conserve water.[2] The shape of the leaves was thought to have a resemblance to a pig's ear, thus the common name.[3] The bell-shaped flowers are small, usually less than 3 cm (1.2 in) in length, and droop from the top of a 60 cm (24 in) tall stalk.[1] The flowers are usually orange-red but yellow varieties also exist.

Varieties and cultivars[4][edit]

This diverse species includes a large number of varieties and cultivated forms.[5] Recognised varieties include:

  • C. orbiculata var. flanaganii (Schönl. & Baker f.) Toelken, with elongated leaves in whorls
  • C. orbiculata var. oblonga (Haw.) DC., defined by its red leaf-margins and 20–50 cm inflorescence.
  • C. orbiculata var. spuria (L.) Toelken, defined by having (2–)3–5 bract pairs on the stem of its inflorescence.

Other forms include:

  • C. orbiculata var. "Dactylopsis", a small and proliferous plant with elongated, terete leaves.
  • C. orbiculata var. "Engleri" (= cultivar: "Viridis"), with leaves of a deep and slightly glaucous green
  • C. orbiculata var. "Mucronata", defined by its mucronate leaves.
  • C. orbiculata var. "Oophylla" Dinter (= cultivars: "Boegoeberg" and "Lizard Eggs"), defined by its round, white, pruinose leaves.
  • C. orbiculata var. "Undulata" Haw. (= cultivar: "Silver Crown"), defined by its wide, flat, round leaves with bent margin.
  • C. orbiculata f. "Takbok", with leaves that often have multiple lobes, becoming antler-like.


Native to South Africa,[1] it is popular in gardens in many countries. In the wild, it grows naturally in rocky outcrops in grassy shrubland and the Karoo region. In New Zealand, it is considered an invasive plant and is listed on the National Pest Plant Accord.[6]


C. orbiculata has a number of medicinal uses. In South Africa, the fleshy part of the leaf is applied to warts and corns. Heated leaves are used as poultices for boils and other inflammations. Single leaves may be eaten as a vermifuge and the juice has been used to treat epilepsy.[2]

However, the leaves contain a bufanolide called cotyledontoxin, which is toxic to sheep, goats, horses, cattle, poultry, and dogs, causing a condition known as cotyledonosis.[7]


  1. ^ a b c "Cotyledon orbiculata". University of Oklahoma Department of Botany & Microbiology. June 13, 2009. Retrieved 2010-04-19.
  2. ^ a b Harris, Shireen. "Cotyledon orbiculata". South Africa National Biodiversity Institute. Retrieved 2010-04-19.
  3. ^ Vandecasteele, Petra; Godard, Paul (2008). In Celebration of Fynbos. Struik. pp. 54–55. ISBN 1-77007-490-2.
  4. ^ HR. Tölken (1985). Crassulaceae. In O.A. Leistner, Flora of southern Africa 14. Botanical Research Institute, Pretoria.
  5. ^ Cotyledon orbiculata Plantzafrica
  6. ^ "National Pest Plant Accord" (PDF). Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-10-15. Retrieved 2010-04-19.
  7. ^ Wickens, G. E. (1998). Ecophysiology of economic plants in arid and semi-arid lands. Springer. p. 204. ISBN 3-540-52171-2.