Salvia is a genus in the mint family, Lamiaceae. It is one of three genera commonly referred to as Sage. When used without modifiers, sage generally refers to common sage (Salvia officinalis); however, it can be used with modifiers to refer to any member of the genus. This genus includes shrubs, herbaceous perennials, and annuals. Different species of sage are grown as herbs and as ornamental plants. The ornamental species are commonly referred to by their scientific name Salvia.
The closely related genera Perovskia and Phlomis are also known as sage; Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), native to the Crimea south to Afghanistan and Pakistan, is grown as an ornamental plant, because of its blue-violet sprays of flowers and its adaptability to either sun or part shade. It has a pleasant smell and is also grown as a bee plant, but is not consumed by humans. Jerusalem Sage refers to Phlomis fruticosa and other species of Phlomis.
Some species of the unrelated genus Artemisia are also referred to as sages, a shortened version of sagebrush, which is a more appropriate term for them. They generally taste vile and are not used in food preparation, although many of them are used medicinally. Smudge bundles are made with various grey-leaved species of Artemisia and are misrepresented as "whitesage" smudges. The true whitesage is Salvia apiana, which has a delightful scent when burned.
Shrubs and freely branching herbs with stems that are square in cross-section, with opposite, simple leaves that lack stipules. The flowers are showy, borne in false whorls around the stem (called verticillasters), with the inflorescence overall resembling a spike. Fruit contains 4 1-seeded nutlets.
All members of the genus are glandular and emit fragrant oils.
Rich, well-drained soils. Most species do best in full sun.
The sage species used as herbs come from the Mediterranean and Asia Minor. Sage has also been grown in central Europe since the Middle Ages.
The name Salvia derives from the Latin 'salveo', which means 'to heal', and the herb is highly regarded for its healing qualities. An ancient proverb states, "Why should a man die who has sage in his garden?". The ancient Greeks used it to treat tuberculosis, ulcers and snake bites.
The Ancient Romans considered sage to be a sacred herb and followed an elaborate ceremony when harvesting it. A sage gatherer would use a special knife (not made of iron as it reacts with the sage), have to have clean clothes and clean feet and a sacrifice of food would have to be made before he could begin. The Romans would use it for toothpaste; they also believed it to be good for the brain, senses and memory.
The Chinese also were quite partial to this herb. 17th century Dutch merchants found that they would trade one chest of sage leaves for three of their teas .
Sages are also used by several Native American cultures.
In modern gardens, sages are grown primarily as ornamental or culinary plants, for their good foliage and attractive flowers. They are also often planted to attract hummingbirds.
Deadhead to encourage repeat blooming
Division, cuttings, or seed.
Pests and diseases
- Cercospora salviicola
- Ramularia salviicola
- Peronospora swinglei
- Sphaeropsis salviae
- Puccinia caulicola
- Puccinia farinacea
- Puccinia salviicola
- Foxglove Aphid: Acyrthosiphon solani
- Greenhouse Whitefly: Trialeurodes vaporiorum
- Asiatic Garden Beetle: Maladera castanea
- Yellow Woolybear Caterpillar: Diacrisia virginica
- Stalk Borer: Papaipema nebris
- Greenhouse Leaf Tier: Udea rubigalis
- Bucculatrix taeniola feeds exclusively on the genus
- Coleophora aegyptiacae (feeds exclusively on S. aegyptiaca)
- Coleophora salviella (feeds exclusively on S. aegyptiaca),
- Coleophora ornatipennella (recorded on S. pratensis)
- Coleophora virgatella (recorded on S. pratensis)
- Two-spotted Spider Mite: Tetranychus urticae
- A Book of Salvias: Sages for Every Garden by Betsy Clebsch, Timber Press, 1997, ISBN 0-88192-369-9.
- ITIS 32680 2002-09-06
- Akhondzadeh S, Noroozian M, Mohammadi M. R. 2003, Salvia Officinalis extract in the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: A double blind and placebo-controlled trial. British Journal of Pharmacology, Vol. 140, p22P-22P, 1/2p
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