I can't think of a better plant to do our first plant profile on than Big Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata). Big Sagebrush is the Nevada state flower and one the most abundant woody plants found throughout the Great Basin. An icon of the American west.
The three most common subspecies of Big Sagebrush in our area are: Basin Big Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata subsp. tridentata), Mountain Big Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata subsp. vaseyana), and Woyming Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata subsp. wyomingensis).
Big Sagebrush, can grow up to 10 feet in height (Basin Big Sagebrush), but tend to average less than 3 feet (Mountain and Wyoming Sagebrush). It is considered an evergreen, although its leaves are more of a grey/silvery color. The leaves are wedge shaped and tend to have three lobes at the end. They also have a distinctive odor when crushed--an odor that is emblematic of the the wild west. The flowers are inconspicuous and yellow, they bloom in late summer--1 plant can produce up to 1 million seeds. The plants prefer dry plains, mesas or rocky areas with deep, well drained soils. They tend to be found at elevations between 3,000 and 10,000 feet.
Big sagebrush communities are vital to the Great Basin because they provide an important winter food source for wildlife, including deer and pronghorn, although it tends to be avoided by horses and cattle. Sagebrush also provides nesting cover for sage grouse and other birds, it helps prevent soil erosion and protects animals against harsh environmental conditions such as wind, rain and intense sun. The importance of big sagebrush communities for wildlife habitat is widely recognized. Species of concern that rely upon sagebrush communities include the Greater Sage-Grouse and Pygmy Rabbits.
- Online Nevada Encyclopedia: Big Sagebrush website, accessed January 10, 2012, http://onlinenevada.org/big_sagebrush
- Weeds of the West, 5th E.. Western Society of Weed Science. 1996.
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