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Plants of the Western Slope November 18, 2015

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Photo by Al Schneider© www.sswcoloradowildflowers.com Sagebrush

Sagebrush

Another "nothing" bush. But it's been a favorite of mine for years. We planted some right by the entrance to our yard a few years ago -- and found that I'm allergic to it! I grew up on the plains of eastern Colorado, we spent several years in Wyoming, many years in Nevada, and we've met a lot of sagebrush here in the Delta area. It just doesn't seem fair!

When in Nevada, I had the opportunity to study botany, and I recall how I scoffed at the professor's statement that sagebrush is a member of the Sunflower family. It sure doesn't look like a sunflower! Then he showed the class a close-up photo of the plant, and it looked a lot like Al Schneider's photo. Next we went out on the desert to look at the plant with our hand lens: I was amazed! There were the flowers! About 1/16th-inch wide; and I could almost make out some of the ray flowers (petals) and a cluster of tiny disk flowers in the center.

Note the small insect toward the center of the photo and compare it to the size of the flowers.

Later I learned that there were a number of species, often making identification difficult. And so the common names may reflect the size of the plants or their habitat. Ours is "Big Sage" (it grows to five feet tall) with the botanical name Artemisia tridentata. (tri=three-toothed or lobed, referring to the leaves). I recall meeting the Artemisia arctica in the high country near Gunnison. (I sneezed as I stepped out of the car!)

Artemisia was the name of Apollo's sister.

The common names of sagewort and wormwort also occur (wort means a "plant"). But what about wormwort? Its medicinal uses include a tea to expel roundworm and pinworm. A wormer! The introduced plant, Artemisia absinthium was so used. And sage? In the early days of our continent, the pioneers tended to call any aromatic plant a "sage." No flowers seem to be blooming, but the sage is!

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Evelyn Horn, Plants of the Western Slope
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