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Artemisia tridentata - Nutt.

Common Name Sage Brush, Big sagebrush, Bonneville big sagebrush
Family Asteraceae or Compositae
USDA hardiness 4-10
Known Hazards Although no reports of toxicity have been seen for this species, skin contact with some members of this genus can cause dermatitis or other allergic reactions in some people[222].
Habitats Dry plains and hills on calcareous soils[60]. Found on slightly acid and on alkaline soils[164].
Range Western N. America - British Columbia to California and Mexico, east to Nebraska.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (5 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Frost Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Artemisia tridentata Sage Brush, Big sagebrush, Bonneville big sagebrush

"Our State Flowers: The Floral Emblems Chosen by the Commonwealths", National Geographic Magazine, XXXI (June 1917), p. 503.
Artemisia tridentata Sage Brush, Big sagebrush, Bonneville big sagebrush


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Common names include: Basin big sagebrush, Mountain big sagebrush, Sage Brush, Big sagebrush, Bonneville big sagebrush.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Artemisia tridentata is an evergreen Shrub growing to 2.5 m (8ft 2in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 8 and is frost tender. It is in leaf all year, in flower in October, and the seeds ripen from October to November. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Wind.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.


Seriphidium tridentatum. (Nutt.)W.A.Weber.


Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Condiment;  Tea.

Leaves - cooked[61]. The subspecies A. tridentata vaseyana has a pleasant mint-like aroma whilst some other subspecies are very bitter and pungent[164]. The leaves are used as a condiment and to make a tea[257]. Seed - raw or cooked. Oily[46, 61]. It can be roasted then ground into a powder and mixed with water or eaten raw[84, 106, 161, 257]. The seed is very small and fiddly to use[K].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antirheumatic;  Antiseptic;  Digestive;  Disinfectant;  Febrifuge;  Miscellany;  Ophthalmic;  Poultice;  
Sedative;  Skin.

Sage brush was widely employed by many native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a wide range of disorders[257]. It is little used in modern herbalism, though it certainly merits further investigation[K]. The plant is antirheumatic, antiseptic, digestive, disinfectant, febrifuge, ophthalmic, poultice and sedative[46, 61, 99, 257]. A decoction of the leaves is used in the treatment of digestive disorders and sore throats[216, 257]. An infusion of the fresh or dried leaves is used to treat pneumonia, bad colds with coughing and bronchitis[257]. It is used both internally and externally in the treatment of rheumatism[257]. The crushed plant is used as a liniment on cuts, sores etc whilst a decoction of the leaves is used as an antiseptic wash for cuts, wounds and sores[257]. A poultice of the steeped leaves is applied to sore eyes[257]. The plant is burnt in the house in order to disinfect it[257].

Other Uses

Basketry;  Disinfectant;  Dye;  Fibre;  Friction sticks;  Fuel;  Hair;  Miscellany;  Paper;  Repellent;  Stuffing;  Tinder.

An infusion of the leaves is used as a hair rinse, it treats dandruff and falling hair[84, 106, 168]. An infusion of the plant repels insects[99], it is also disinfectant and so is used for washing walls, floors etc[99]. A yellow to gold dye is obtained from the leaves, buds and stems combined[168]. The fibrous bark is used for weaving mats, baskets, cloth etc., or as a stuffing material in pillows etc and as an insulation in shoes to keep the feet warm[99, 257]. A fibre obtained from the inner bark is used for making paper[189]. The fibres are about 1.3mm long[189]. The stems are harvested in late summer, the leaves removed and the stems steamed until the fibre can be stripped off. The fibre is then cooked for two hours with lye before being ball milled for 4 hours. The resulting paper is a light tan/gold colour[189]. A bunch of the leafy stems can be tied together and used as a broom[257]. The shredded bark is a fine tinder for starting fires[99, 257]. The stems make good friction sticks for making fires[257]. The seeds are used during celebrations because, when thrown into a fire, they explode like crackers[257]. Wood - hard, dense[229]. It burns rapidly and well, even when green, and has a pleasant aromatic smell[212]. Sagebrush provides food and habitat for a variety of species, such as sage grouse, pronghorn antelope, gray vireo, pygmy rabbit, and mule deer.

Cultivation details

Requires a sunny position and a well-drained soil that is not too rich[1, 11]. Requires a lime-free soil[60]. There are a number of sub-species growing in different habitats from deep fertile soils to poor shallow ones[164]. Plants are longer lived, more hardy and more aromatic when they are grown in a poor dry soil[245]. Established plants are very drought tolerant[200]. This species is not hardy in the colder areas of the country, it tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10°c[200]. The young growth in spring, even on mature plants, is frost-tender and so it is best to grow the plants in a position sheltered from the early morning sun[K]. The plant is very aromatic, especially after rain[11, 182]. The pollen of this species is one of the main causes of hayfever in N. America[212]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[233].


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Seed - surface sow from late winter to early summer in a greenhouse in a very free-draining soil, but making sure that the compost does not dry out. The sub-species A. tridentata vaseyana germinates better if given a cool stratification for 30 - 50 days. Other sub-species germinate in 1 - 2 weeks in a warm greenhouse[164]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter, planting them out in late spring or early summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Very slow to root[11] Division in spring or autumn. Layering[164].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Sage brush,

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Australia, Canada, Central America, Mexico, North America, USA,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

This plant can be weedy or invasive. Reports of weed problems in Wyoming, USA.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Artemisia abrotanumSouthernwood13
Artemisia absinthiumWormwood, Absinthium.13
Artemisia annuaQing Hao, Sweet sagewort14
Artemisia anomala 02
Artemisia argyi 02
Artemisia biennisBiennial Wormwood11
Artemisia campestrisField Southernwood02
Artemisia campestris glutinosa 00
Artemisia capillarisYin Chen Hao13
Artemisia caruifolia 13
Artemisia cinaCina, Santonica03
Artemisia dracunculoidesRussian Tarragon, Tarragon, French Tarragon21
Artemisia dracunculusTarragon, French Tarragon42
Artemisia filifoliaSand Sage, Sand sagebrush02
Artemisia frigidaFringed Wormwood, Prairie sagewort12
Artemisia glacialisGlacier Wormwood12
Artemisia gmeliniiRussian Wormwood, Gmelin's wormwood11
Artemisia indica 13
Artemisia japonica 12
Artemisia keiskeana 21
Artemisia laciniataSiberian wormwood10
Artemisia lactifloraWhite Mugwort02
Artemisia lancea 11
Artemisia ludovicianaWhite Sage, Louisiana Sage, Prairie Sage, Western Mugwort22
Artemisia ludoviciana gnaphalodesWhite Sage02
Artemisia maritimaSea Wormwood12
Artemisia mexicanaMexican White Sagebrush01
Artemisia michauxianaMountain Sagewort, Michaux's wormwood11
Artemisia monophylla 10
Artemisia montana 10


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Readers comment

Anders   Tue Oct 31 2006

The proper hardiness for this plant is USDA zone 4. it is not frost tender. Grows througout the Great Basin and across the high plains.

L. Shultz   Sun Sep 23 2007

Flora of North America see taxonomy of Artemisia under "Asteraceae"

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