Mediterranean sage (Salvia aethiopis) is native to the Mediterranean and North Africa. It is believe to have been introduced to North America in contaminated alfalfa seed. Since its introduction, Mediterranean sage has established itself in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Arizona and Colorado as a noxious weed.
Unpalatable to livestock, Mediterranean sage is found in degraded sagebrush communities, pastures, meadows, rangelands and other open areas. A weevil, Phrydiuchus tau, is often employed as a biological agent for control of this noxious weed.
A biennial, this aromatic member of the Mint Family forms a large rosette of greyish, woolly leaves in the first season. In the second season Mediterranean sage bolts into a plant growing to a height of two to three feet. The square stems are profusely branched.
The lower Mediterranean sage leaves have petioles and lobed, coarsely-toothed blades. The opposite upper leaves are smaller and clasp the stem. The leaves are woolly and felt-like when young, but some older leaves loose some of their wool.
The white flowers of Mediterranean sage have a two-lipped corolla and are borne in a broad panicle (branched inflorescence where the flowers mature from the bottom up) with whorls of flowers, each circled by silver-haired bracts with pointed tips.
Mediterranean sage reproduces only by seeds. Each flower has 4 nutlets containing small, smooth seeds with dark veins. Each plants produces thousands of seeds. The mature plant forms a “tumbleweed” which is very efficient at seed distribution.
A common name, African sage, and the species name, aethiopis – Latin for Ethiopia, refer to the African origin of Mediterranean sage. “Salvus”, Latin meaning safe or well, is the origin of the genus name. Many members of the Mint Family are used for their supposed medicinal healing value.
This Mediterranean sage plant was growing in June along California Highway 139 (Modoc County) between Dry Lake Ranch and Modoc County Road 97.