Pigs’ ears are a common feature of many species of succulents. They’re commonly known as “earwax” or “earplugs”, but they’re not just for that purpose! Pigs’ ears have been used medicinally since ancient times, and their use continues today in folk medicine. There are several different types of pigs’ ears, each with its own medicinal properties. Some are edible; others aren’t (and some even contain toxic substances).
The plant genus name Orbicularis means “of orbs.” So it makes sense that these little plants would come in all shapes and sizes. A few of them look like tiny grapes, while others resemble miniature pears.
Many are shaped like small, round beads. And then there are those giant ones that resemble little bells.
In fact, some of the most popular names for these plants include: bellows flowers, earplugs, earwax caps, earflaps and other such nonsense. But let’s stick with the actual scientific name – Orbicularis gigantea. That’s what I’ve always called them until someone else came up with something better.
I’m not really good with names.
You might see these plants for sale in the nursery under their more common name – pigs’ ears. They’re easy to grow and make a great gift for just about anyone.
And hey, they can’t be any worse than a dozen roses, right?
Pigs’ ears are hardy succulents found in the western United States. This means they can survive pretty harsh conditions like extreme heat and drought. As a result, they’re popular plants for landscaping in places like Arizona and New Mexico.
These plants grow wild in barren areas all over the southwestern U.S. They grow directly from solid rock without much nutrient soil, so they can survive on very little water.
And they’re still beautiful!
Traditionally, pigs’ ears have been used medicinally to help treat colds and sore throats. In fact, they’re still used in herbal medicines today. In the late 1800’s, doctors prescribed pigs’ ears as a cure for diphtheria.
They were also used to make patients feel better when suffering from paralysis or neuralgia. But today pigs’ ears are most popular for their use in folk medicines and magick spells. You can find a lot of it in oils and incenses used in love sachets.
Pigs’ ears are hardy succulents that grow from solid rock. They’re usually smaller than your hand and shaped like a little cup or a fat cigar. The edges are lined with teeth, while the inside is lined with small, triangular teeth.
These “teeth” are actually hardened leaf edges that act as a way for the plant to absorb nutrients. The triangular teeth on the inside are covered with a thick, fuzzy material. This white fuzz is what you see on earplugs when you purchase them.
The plants themselves come in a wide variety of colors. Most fall under the solid color scheme of green, yellow, pink or red. But some of the hybrids come in more unusual colors like black and purple.
The yellow ones tend to be very common, while the pink and red ones are a little rarer.
Most nurseries carry these plants year-round. They sell them both by the individual and in small containers. You can also find them at most farmer’s markets in the southwest during the spring and summer.
Prepare your pigs’ ears like any other succulent. They don’t need much attention, but they do require a little TLC every once in awhile. For example, you should fertilize them once every couple of months with a standard houseplant fertilizer.
This will give them a bit of a boost and they’ll reward you with more flowers.
Occasionally, these plants will drop some of their lower leaves. This is normal and they don’t require any special treatment. It’s also normal for pigs’ ears to go into a state of semi-hibernation during the winter months.
This means their leaves turn brown and start to shrivel up a bit. This doesn’t mean they’re dying; it just means they’re resting. They’ll perk up again once the spring and summer come around.
You should never water these plants from above. Since they grow in barren, rocky soil, their leaves sometimes tend to keep the dust that gives them their color. If you water them from above, the dust will sometimes run off and stain floors and carpets.
It’s best to water these guys from the bottom; just make sure to take them out of their container first so that all the excess water can drain out.
You can use pigs’ ears in your home in a couple of different ways. First, you can place them in a room standalone in a nice, decorative pot. Just make sure the container has a drainage hole or it could get messy.
These plants look great when placed on a table or shelf. They also look nice when they’re combined with other succulents in one big container. You can even combine them in the same container as other cacti if you want.
The second use for pigs’ ears is in magick. These are popular in folk magick spells that involve love and protection. The triangular teeth inside the ears are usually used in these types of spells.
These parts of the plant tend to be very fuzzy, which some people believe makes them more effective.
You can also use the entire plant, whether it’s the leaves or one of the furry ears. People will use the entire plant as decoration and then throw the whole thing away. This is a waste, of course, so I usually take these out of their containers and use just the pot at the bottom to hold other things.
It’s important to note that pigs’ ears are not a substitute for Eye of Newt. These are completely different types of plants. Please do not attempt to use pigs’ ears in place of Eye of Newt in any of the spells found in this book.
Description: Powdered bone is exactly what it sounds like, though the bones used to create this powder aren’t necessarily from humans or even mammals. Some of the materials used can be from birds, fish, or reptiles. The bones are usually cooked for a long time in order to break them down and sterilize them before they’re ground into a fine, white power.
Sources & references used in this article:
Cape Agulhas, Africa’s Southernmost Succulents, and Aloe Juddii, Newly Named from the Region by E van Jaarsveld, J Deacon – Cactus and Succulent Journal, 2010 – BioOne
Growth and health by I Leitch – British Journal of Nutrition, 1951 – cambridge.org
Climbing cliffs in the Kaokoveld by EJ VAN JAARSVELD, W Voigt – Veld & Flora, 2002 – journals.co.za
A preliminary check list of Zulu names of plants: with short notes by J Gerstner – Bantu studies, 1941 – Taylor & Francis
Growth and health by I Leitch – International journal of epidemiology, 2001 – academic.oup.com
Lost crops of the Incas: little-known plants of the Andes with promise for worldwide cultivation by National Research Council – 1989 – books.google.com
Botany illustrated: introduction to plants, major groups, flowering plant families by JE Rogers – 1913 – Doubleday, Page