Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Artemisia tridentata


Big sagebrush, Great Basin sagebrush


Asteraceae (Aster Family)



Artemisia tridentata (Big sagebrush)
Flaigg, Norman G.
Big sagebrush or Great Basin sagebrush is an evergreen shrub, 1 1/2-9 ft. tall, with a gnarled spread somewhat less than its height. It may have a short trunk or be branched from the base. Small, velvety, silvery leaves have a sweet, pungent aroma and, en masse, give a bluish-gray effect.

Big Sagebrush is the dominant shrub over vast areas of the Great Basin region. Several subspecies have been identified, all more or less similar to the typical form. Sagebrush is a valuable forage plant for wildlife, particularly during the winter. It is browsed by deer, moose, elk, antelope, and bighorn sheep, especially in late winter and spring. Sage grouse also feed heavily on sagebrush, which also provides nesting sites for a variety of songbirds. Even more nutritious than alfalfa, this shrub consists of 16 percent proteins, 15 percent fats, and 47 percent carbohydrates. Humans have used the plant primarily as firewood—the volatile oils responsible for its pungent aroma are so flammable that they can cause even green plants to burn.

Image Gallery:

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Root Type: Tap
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Leaf: Blue-gray
Flower:
Fruit:
Size Class: 6-12 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Jun

Distribution

USA: AZ , CA , CO , ID , MA , MT , NE , NV , NM , ND , OR , SD , UT , WA , WY
Canada: AB , BC
Native Distribution: W. Great Plains, w. to B.C. & Baja CA. Massachusetts inclusion on list is based on voucher specimen collected in Middlesex County. The species is very likely not native there.
Native Habitat: Open, dry plains; hills; slopes

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Dry, rocky soils.
Conditions Comments: Periodic pruning to remove old stems rejuvenates Artemisia tridentata. Plants are extremely drought tolerant and are susceptible to root rot if too wet. Nitrogen-fixing. Intolerant of alkalinity. Commercial seed of this species may belong to one of three common subspecies: Basin - tridentata, Mountain - vaseyana & Wyoming - wyomingensis. These subspecies are adapted to distinct environments, so it is important to identify seed sources. Pollen is a cause of hayfever.

Benefit

Use Wildlife: An important wildlife plant.
Use Medicinal: Tea drunk for relief of nasal congestion. Many Zuni believe boiling the plant over the stove will prevent colds. (Steiner)
Use Other: Places in shoes or mocassins as a foot deodorant. Indigenous Californians used young shoots for fire drills.
Fragrant Flowers: yes
Fragrant Foliage: yes

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Artemisia tridentata is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Hera buckmoth
(Hemileuca hera)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Last Update: 2009-02-19