Artemisia tridentata

Big sagebrush

Location
Smith Rock State Park
High desert
Central Oregon

Observations
Grows to 4 feet tall and wide.
Grey green leaves, narrow, dividing into three right near the tip. Very fresh and alive, even in December.
Dried seed heads, straw-colored.
Scent turpentine-like. Really strong. Maybe don’t take a little sample and store it in the same pocket as your handkerchief.

Facts
Artemisia tridentata is called Big sagebrush. There are many kinds of Artemisia ‘sage’ native to North America. These are in the aster family and are different from culinary sage, Salvia which is in the mint family. Both are usually strongly aromatic and often have furry or silvery leaves.

The Artemisia genus includes 250 species, commonly called Sage bush, Wormwood (used to make Absinth), Southernwood and Mugwort. A. ludoviciana is White or Prairie sage.

The sage brush native to the American west is really important for animals, both wild and farmed. Pronghorn antelope, mule deer, rabbits and sage grouse depend on it. During the winter antelope use their sharp hoofs to paw through the snow to get some twigs and leaves, then the smaller animals follow behind, feeding on bits and seeds once the plants are exposed. Sage also provides forage for sheep and cattle. In the 1960s ranchers and the government began a program of spraying to kill native vegetation on thousands of acres of land and replace it with non-native grasses. Unfortunately, grasses go dormant during droughts and winter. Rachel Carson’s essay “Earth’s Green Mantle” describes this and other relationships between plants and animals.

Native americans ate the seeds and leaves.
Flowers and leaves produce a gold dye.
Extremely drought tolerant. Useful in xeriscaping (gardening with limited water).

About Mulysa

I love my work as a landscape designer and artist. When I'm not planning homesteads or working in the studio, you'll find me hiking, photographing, gardening, baking, cooking vegetarian meals with friends, reading and working on sustainability issues...with my baby on my hip in Portland, Oregon.
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