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Artemisia tridentata (Big sagebrush)
Flaigg, Norman G.

Artemisia tridentata

Artemisia tridentata Nutt.

Big Sagebrush, Great Basin Sagebrush

Asteraceae (Aster Family)


USDA Symbol: artr2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

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

8 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Root Type: Tap
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Size Notes: Up to about 9 feet tall.
Leaf: Blue-gray
Fruit: Fruit is a cypsela (pl. cypselae). Though technically incorrect, the fruit is often referred to as an achene.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct , Nov


USA: 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 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.


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

Value to Beneficial Insects

Provides 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)

Hera buckmoth
(Hemileuca hera)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA


Description: Half-ripened wood under mist give some rooting success. Seeds should germinate easily.
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 Directory

According 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

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

Additional resources

USDA: Find Artemisia tridentata in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Artemisia tridentata in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Artemisia tridentata


Record Modified: 2022-10-12
Research By: TWC Staff

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