The leaves of Ballota africana grow decussate, i.e. opposite and perpendicular to the previous pair. Petioles are present, sometimes longish ones, but they often remain unseen in the plant’s growth habit.
Young leaf woolliness makes them paler than the fully grown leaves from which some hairs may be lost, more widely spread or both. The rounded to heart-shaped leaves have round-toothed or scalloped margins, a vein running into each scallop to near the margin that is slightly rolled under. Leaf dimensions are about 4 cm long and 3 cm wide.
The soft green blades are quilted or wrinkled, caused by their eye-catching, sunken veining. About five nearly straight veins radiate from each leaf-base. A few big secondary veins branch from these in irregular reticulation, like the streets of an old town from days before grid maps were formally introduced, or when the town planner’s ideas did not find favour. The leaves are aromatic, strongly noticed when crushed.
The plant featured much in traditional medicine from Khoi days for treating a variety of chest complaints and a diversity of other ailments. It is still used.
South Africa has only one of the about 35 species of the Ballota genus. They are mainly found around the Mediterranean and Asia Minor (Vlok and Schutte-Vlok, 2015; Manning, 2007; Van Wyk and Gericke, 2000; iNaturalist).