Artemisia tridentata Nutt.
Big sagebrush, Great Basin sagebrush
Asteraceae (Aster Family)
USDA Symbol: artr2
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.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Root Type: Tap
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Size Class: 6-12 ft.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Jun
DistributionUSA: AZ , CA , CO , ID , MA , MT , ND , NE , NM , NV , 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 ConditionsWater 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.
BenefitUse 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
Value to Beneficial InsectsProvides Nesting Materials/Structure for Native Bees
This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)Artemisia tridentata is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Hera buckmoth |
Learn more at BAMONA
PropagationDescription: Half-ripened wood under mist give some rooting success. Seeds should germinate easily.
Seed Collection: Not Available
Commercially Avail: yes
Find Seed or Plants
Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.
View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
BibliographyBibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Bibref 1211 - Folk Medicine: The Art and the Science (1985) Richard P. Steiner
Bibref 946 - Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to Create Beautiful Native Landscapes (2002) Wasowski, Sally
Bibref 1218 - Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources (2006) Anderson, M. Kat
Search More Titles in Bibliography
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Artemisia tridentata in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Artemisia tridentata in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Artemisia tridentata
MetadataRecord Modified: 2009-02-19
Research By: TWC Staff