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What is Leopard's Bane?

By Deneatra Harmon
Updated May 16, 2024
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The leopard's bane, formal name of Doronicum, qualifies as a hardy, perennial flowering plant native to the mountains of Europe. Other names for the leopard's bane include wolf's bane, mountain arnica, mountain tobacco and Arnica montana. This flowering plant, which grows in cool to warm temperatures but dies off in extreme heat, belongs to the Asteraceae family of daisies. Some cultivars, or varieties, include Doronicum plantagineum excelsum, Doronium caucasicum and Doronicum cordatum, all of which plant well through seed or bulb division. Green, heart-shaped leaves and yellow, daisy-like flowers or various heights make it a colorful addition to any garden or greenhouse.

Each cultivar of the plant generally grows with deep green, heart-shaped leaves along with clusters of yellow, yellow-orange, canary yellow or lemon yellow blooms. Slight differences exist among this daisy family of plants and shrubs when it comes to height. Doronicum plantagineum excelsium, also known simply as plantain leopard's bane, grows to nearly 3 1/2 feet (about 1.06 m) tall with approximately 4-inch (about 10.6 cm) spread of leaves and flowers. The Caucasian leopard's bane, or the Doronicum caucasicum or orientale, produces stems as high as around two feet (0.6 m), and blooms smaller flowers of about three inches wide (7.6 cm). Doronicum cordatum, or the Great leopard's bane, reaches up to four feet (about 1.2 m) and blooms the golden-colored, Goldstrauss variety of flowers starting in the spring.

Most varieties of the plant's seeds and bulbs remain hardy in temperatures ranging from -30 degrees Fahrenheit (-31.7 degrees Celsius) to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-9.4 degrees Celsius) to ensure springtime growth. Such temperatures fall into the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hardiness zones four through eight, which define any area that endures cold weather seasons. The yellow daisy-like plants prefer some shade as long as it is warm, but they can also withstand sunlight as long as the loamy soil underneath remains moist but drained. Some gardening experts recommend mulching to protect the leopard's bane from withering during the winter.

Dividing or separating wolf's bane seeds or bulbs during propagation helps prepare room for sufficient plant growth, whether prepared outdoors, in a greenhouse or in a planting container. The peak blooming times for the yellow daisy lookalikes occur in mid-spring through early summer. What is interesting about the leopard's bane is that it dies back by mid- to late summer because of the heat, but it shows the capability to reappear during the fall, depending on care as well as the weather conditions.

For landscaping purposes, the plant adds decorative appeal to flower beds, flowerpots, or lawn borders. Companion planting also enhances color within the landscape or fills in some of the voids left by wolf's bane plants that go dormant in hot weather. For example, some experts suggest planting daffodils with leopard's bane during the spring growing season. The flowering plant also gets along well with impatiens and hostas since they also thrive in moist, shady locations.

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