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Big Five Safari at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

Big Five Safari at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve near Montagu on Route 62 in South Africa.

Cotyledon Orbiculata “The Pig’s Ear”

Cotyledon orbiculata belongs to the Crassulaceae genus; commonly known as pig's ear or "Plakkie", which describes plants that are used as poultices.

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

The plant is native to South Africa and it is a popular garden plant in many Countries. In the wild, it grows naturally in rocky outcrops in grassy shrubland and the Karoo region.

The Cotyledon orbiculata has a number of medicinal uses


The Leaf can be pulped and hot water poured over it, than drained and used as poultice,
It can be placed in a folded cloth and warmed thoroughly in a low oven before being used as a poultice.
The leaf can be warmed in hot water, then cut open for drawing infections out of wounds and sores.
The leaf is a remarkably effective dressing for planter's warts and verruca's.
Prepare a piece of scraped, softened leaf, or a piece of leaf with a "window" the size of the wart. Place it over the wart and secure it with a sticky plaster.
A fresh leaf is applied every night for 10-14 days, and the wart left uncovered during the day.
At the end of the treatment the softened wart falls out and the area is healed.
The peeled leaf has the effect of softening the hard tissue.
The warmed leaf is applied to boils, abscesses and corns.
The cut leaf surface heals a nappy rash.
It will treat a blister on your heel. Wear a sock or a bandage to keep the leaf in place with the "window" over the blister.

Leaf Juice:

The warmed juice of the leaf is used as soothing drops for earache and toothache.
A poultice of warmed leaves is held behind the ear to ease otitis media or
Packed on the jaw to draw a tooth-abscess.
Fresh juice can be rubbed into the gum to ease toothache.
Juice from a fresh leaf is swallowed once a day for sore throat and a single leaf is eaten to expel worms.
The juice is also used on cuts and burns.

Cotyledon Toxin:

The plant is used in the treatment of epilepsy.
The toxic principle, cotyledontoxin, has local anaesthetic effects, and acts as a central nervous system depressant.  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 (toxication of nervous and muscular system). The toxin is higher in summer than in winter.


Cardiac effects are possible with internal uses. Oral preparations should not be taken by anyone with known or suspected cardiac conditions.

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