Friday, July 2, 2010

Purple Sage

Purple sage,
also known as desert sage, tobacco sage, Dorr's sage and mint sage (Salvia dorrii)
has a very different distribution pattern than other plants I've looked at. Of course, I found it in a very different place. On a drive home from Utah I took the Mountain Pass offramp off the I-15 in the Clark Mountains near the top of the mountain heading south from Primm (Stateline), Nevada. At the top of the offramp I turned left over the overpass and went a short way up a dirt road toward a large mountain. This area is in the vicinity of the Mojave National Preserve, but is part of a section cut out of it, very near the rare metals mine that was closed down for environmental contamination. Purple sage is uncommon and has only isolated populations througout its range.
It requires well drained and dry soil, full sun, little water and high summer temperatures. It can be found in parts of eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, southwestern Idaho, Nevada, western Utah, northwestern Arizona and northeastern and southern California. What makes it distinctive and gives it one of its common names, is an inflorescence of spike-like clusters
of numerous purple flowers.
It has narrow and lanceolate grey-green leaves that are tapered at the base and rounded at the tip.
Another one of its common names comes from the mild mint aroma released when the foliage is handled or crushed.
Another of its common names stems from its use by Native Americans, particulary the Utes in Utah, which smoked it as a tobacco substitute for its mildly hallucinogenic effect. It was used in sweatlodge ceremonies by throwing small amounts of the leaves on burning rocks used to make steam. It can also be made into a tea which decreases sweating, salivation and mucous secretions in the sinuses, throat and lungs.
Most of the information for this post came from Wikipedia, Salvia dorrii.

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