Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sagebrush and Sage

The sagebrush that grows so abundantly in our locale is often taken for granted. But it is really a unique and beautiful plant that we need to appreciate and enjoy. Not only does it grow abundantly in our shrub-steppe ecoregion, but it is a plant that can be added to garden landscaping to bring native beauty close to home. This plant has adapted well to little rain, heavy winds, hot summer sun, and cold winters. It has a deep tap root system and very shallow branching roots that serve it very well. It is a woody evergreen shrub that keeps it's beautiful silvery leaves all year around and can be identified by it sharp odor after a passing rain. The pioneers who came west on wagon train liked to describe sagebrush as a mixture of turpentine and camphor. Although this plant is abundant in our area, care needs to be taken to protect it, as it is fragile and doesn't replenish itself easily after human disturbance or natural disasters. Regrowth may take several lifetimes for it to become established once disturbed.

Some have asked if the sagebrush is related to the sage herb. Although the sage green colors are similar, the answer is no. True sage is of the genus "Salvia" and of the mint family "Lamiaceae". There are 700 varieties of this type of sage which includes the garden sage, "S. officinalis", frequently used for cooking. White sage, used for making incense, is of this genus and family as well.

The sagebrush so common in the west is related to the sunflower or the genus "Artemisia" and the family "Asteraceae".

How nice it would be to be able to capture the fragrance of wet sagebrush so all could enjoy. There is beauty in the appearance and fragrance of this humble shrub.


  1. Sagebrush does have it's beauties. I guess there are times of the year when there isn't much one can find that outshines sagebrush. You captured the beauties well with your close up photo. And you are right that it can have an appealing smell. Last summer I learned that there are at least a couple different species that grow wild out there around our state, and they have differences in their leaves.

    Elizabeth Joy

  2. Yes, I was reading about that as well, Elizabeth Joy. I think that there are three varieties locally. I'd never known that before and found it so interesting. I'd love to transplant some to my yard, but I think it isn't an 'easy' move, so I guess I'll just enjoy it 'out and about'. They did start quite a few from little shoots at the wildlife refuge a couple years ago, though, and they seem to be thriving.

  3. I too love sagebrush. There is a fair bit of it around here. The ranges where friends and I used to ride our horses had a lot of sagebrush and I loved riding through it.

    I love the pictures you posted a couple days ago. Beautiful. They remind me of the Kamloops area, not terribly far from where I live.

  4. Ah, so the sagebrush is from the artemesia genus. I have Silver King Artemesia that returns in my garden each year. You probably know how prolific it can be. It could be a nuisance, but I just pull it up where it is not wanted. I love the silver color against the greens.

  5. I have tried unsuccessfully growing white sage on our land. Do you have any of that growin in the wild near you ?


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