Photo courtesy of Mary Ellen (Mel) Harte, bugwood.org
Artemisia tridentata Nutt.
Scientific Name Synonyms:
Life Span: Perennial
Growth Characteristics: An erect, highly branched shrub with a rounded crown, growing 1 to 16 feet tall. Trunk is short. Flowers August to September and reproduces from seed.
Flowers/Inflorescence: Small inconspicuous flowers, in dense clusters, forming in the fall.
Fruits/Seeds: A resinous, brownish, flattened, pubescent seed.
Leaves: Alternate, simple, somewhat spatula-shaped, and gray-green in color. Tip of the leaf is 3-lobed most of the time, but can be entire. The leaf tapers at the base. The surface is covered with a silver-appearing hair. Two crops of leaves are produced each year, one in the spring and one in the fall. As the fall leaves come on, the spring leaves are dropped and vice-versa.
Stems: Twigs are round and rigid. Current years growth is pubescent, giving it a silvery-white appearance. The newer stems are green, and older stems are brown. Bark is gray-brown, shredding into long, flat strips.
Occurs in valleys, basins, and mountain slopes, at elevations between 2,500 and 10,000 feet.
Soils: Most abundant in dry, well-drained, gravelly or rocky soils.
Associated Species: Bluebunch wheatgrass, rubber rabbitbrush, junegrass, western wheatgrass, and blue grama.
Uses and Management:
Big Sagebrush is good forage for sheep and wildlife on winter ranges. It is poor forage for cattle. It is high in protein, but also high in volatile oils, which may cause rumen stasis. It is a food source and provides cover for many types of wildlife. It is essential to sage grouse, which prefer the short forms, for feed and cover.
Some American Indians used decoctions made with big sagebrush as a laxative. It is used locally as a tea substitute, general tonic, for hair and eye wash, in treating colds and diarrhea, and as an antiseptic for wounds.