South Dakota Native Plant Research
Asteraceae : Artemisia tridentata

Asteraceae : Artemisia tridentata


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Family Name


Common Name

big sagebrush

Native American Name

Lakota: pȟeží ȟóta tȟáŋka


Artemisia tridentata is an erect, branching, aromatic, evergreen shrub, having both a deep taproot and a broad shallow root system, and growing from 0.5 to 3 m in height. The older stems are dark colored and are often gnarled with exfoliating bark. The younger branches are covered with a short pubescence. The leaves are wedge shaped, narrow at the base and tridentate at the tip. The inflorescence is a loose panicle of near sessile heads. The heads have involucral bracts 2-4 mm long and covered in whitish hairs. The several yellow florets are attached to a naked receptacle and are all perfect. The leaves contain camphor and other essential oils. The achenes are small and very dark when mature. Flowering occurs from June into September. Big sage is found on open dry plains and hills in western South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Big sage is a striking very long-lived shrub that is an attractive addition to any native plant garden. Its blue-gray foliage and yellow flowers provide color, and the plant attracts butterflies, moths and bees. It has a pleasant fragrance which is especially nice after rain. The leaves contain camphor and several essential oils and have been used to relieve nasal congestion by boiling in water and breathing the steam.

Horticulture Notes

Seed collection: Achenes can be collected in the fall when they darken and begin to be shed.

Germination: Dormancy can be broken with a 60-day moist cold treatment or planting out in the fall.

Vegetative propagation: Stem cuttings made in the fall, treated with rooting hormones and cultured in warmed rooting mix.

Light: Full sun.

Soil: Dry, well drained rocky to sandy soils. Plants are susceptible to root rot if kept too wet.

Asteraceae : Artemisia tridentata