Salvia azurea Michx. ex Vahl

Blue Sage


CC = 4
CW = 5
MOC = 38

© SRTurner

Family - Lamiaceae

Habit - Perennial forb with a thick and often woody rootstock.

Stems - Ascending to erect, to 1.5 m, 4-angled (the angles rounded), longitudinally keeled, densely pubescent with short, curved hairs, sometimes more sparsely hairy toward the base, sometimes also with scattered, longer, spreading hairs.

Salvia_azurea_stem2.jpg Stem and node.

© SRTurner

Salvia_azurea_stem.jpg Stem and nodes.

© SRTurner

Leaves - Opposite. Basal and lower stem leaves usually absent at flowering, short-to long-petiolate, the blade 3-7 cm long, obovate to oblong-obovate or oblanceolate. Stem leaves 3 to numerous pairs, short-petiolate, the blade 2-8 cm long, linear-lanceolate to lanceolate or oblanceolate, tapered at the base, angled to a sharply pointed tip, the margins finely toothed to nearly entire, the upper surface sparsely pubescent with short, curved hairs or nearly glabrous, the undersurface densely pubescent with appressed or curved, somewhat felted, short hairs, also usually with sessile glands.

Salvia_azurea_leaves1.jpg Stem and leaves.

© SRTurner

Inflorescence - Terminal spikes or racemes of whorled flowers (verticillasters), typically with 1-4 flowers per node. Flowers on pedicels to 6 mm long, recurved-pubescent. Bracts usually persistent, 2-8 mm long, narrowly lanceolate to linear.

Salvia_azurea_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Salvia_azurea_inflorescence2.jpg Inflorescence.

© DETenaglia

Flowers - Calyces 4-7 mm long at flowering, becoming elongated to 6-10 mm at fruiting, densely short-hairy, 12-13 nerved, the upper lip entire, the lower lip shallowly 2-lobed. Corollas zygomorphic, bilabiate, 10-25 mm long, the outer surface densely short-hairy, blue, often with pale markings on the lower lip, the tube much longer than the calyx, the upper lip strongly hooded, entire or very shallowly notched at the tip, the lower lip much larger than upper lip, with relatively well-developed lateral lobes and a broadly fan-shaped central lobe, this relatively deeply notched at the tip. Stamens 2, covered by upper lip.

Salvia_azurea_calyx.jpg Calyx and flower lateral view.

© DETenaglia

Salvia_azurea_calyces.jpg Calyces, top view.

© SRTurner

Salvia_azurea_flowers.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Salvia_azurea_flowers2.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Salvia_azurea_corolla.jpg Corolla.

© DETenaglia

Fruits - Dry schizocarps separating into 4 nutlets, these 2.0-2.8 mm long, the surface brown, smooth or minutely pebbled, sometimes with sessile glands.

Flowering - July - September.

Habitat - Upland prairies, glades, ledges and tops of bluffs, savannas, upland forest openings, fields, fencerows, railroads, roadsides, open disturbed areas. Also cultivated.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - None close, though similar cultivars are sometimes found in gardens.

Other info. - This attractive species can be found growing wild in Missouri mainly in the southwestern third of the state. Its main natural range is centered roughly at Missouri's southewestern corner, also extending south into Gulf Coast states. It is cultivated elsewhere. The plant is easily recognized when in flower as nothing else in the state much resembles it.

Missouri plants have been categorized as ver. grandiflora, as distinguished from var. azurea. The latter taxon occurs in the southeastern U.S. and is characterized by stems which are glabrous, or sparsely pubescent with spreading or ascending hairs. The generic epithet Salvia is derived from salveo, a Latin term meaning "to heal," in reference to the putative curative properties of some plants in the genus.

Blue sage is a beautiful garden plant. The seeds, like those of all the mints, are small nutlets which can be found inside the base of the calyx. They are easily collected and grown in the garden. This is far better practice than digging up live plants, which harms the local environment and is unlawful on most public lands.

Photographs taken at Schumaker Park, 8-2-00, and in Conecuh National Forest, AL., 10-23-04 (DETenaglia); also at Shaw Nature Reserve, Franklin County, MO, 8-25-2007 and 10-7-2012, and Weldon Spring Conservation Area, St. Charles County, MO, 9-25-2012 (SRTurner).