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Salvia columbariae (California sage)
Bransford, W.D. and Dolphia

Salvia columbariae

Salvia columbariae Benth.

California Sage, Chia Sage, Golden Chia, Desert Chia, Chia

Lamiaceae (Mint Family)


USDA Symbol: saco6

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Tiny, blue flowers are aggregated in several balls along the square stems of this 4-24 in. annual. The leaves are mostly basal, once or twice pinnate and velvety. California Sage smells distinctly skunky.

Chia (pronounced chee'-ah) is the common name for several Salvia species from which Indians made pinole, a meal ground from parched seeds, as well as atole, a gruel made by adding water or other liquid to chia flour.


From the Image Gallery

20 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Annual
Habit: Herb
Size Notes: Up to about 2 feet tall.
Fruit: Nutlets.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Blue
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun , Jul


USA: AZ , CA , NM , NV , UT
Native Distribution: S. CA to extreme s.w. UT, AZ & Sonoran Desert
Native Habitat: Open, dry, disturbed places

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil Description: Dry, well-drained soils.


Use Wildlife: Popular with bees.
Use Food: Seeds eaten as grain, whole or ground. If soaked in water, seeds will absorb the moisture and transform it into a gelatinous coating, creating a chia gel which was consumed by indigenous people for energy, mixed with other grains and meals for a gruel-like pinole, and has been rediscovered in recent years. This is one of a few species of Salvia used in this way, the best known of which is the Mexican Salvia hispanica.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies , Hummingbirds
Nectar Source: yes

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Description: Propagate by divisions, rooted sections, or seeds.
Seed Collection: Collect the seeds as the capsules begin to dry but before they have dropped the seeds. Spread seeds in thin layers to dry a few days before storing dry in sealed, refrigerated containers.
Seed Treatment: Seed treatment varies among ecotypes. Generally dry storage and a period of stratification aids germination.
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:

Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR

Web Reference

Webref 37 - Calscape (2019) California Native Plant Society
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

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


Record Modified: 2023-02-24
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