Death Valley Sage

Considered a rare or uncommon plant because of its limited distribution and specific habitat requirements, Death Valley sage (Salvia funerea) is found only in the mountains around Death Valley at elevations up to 1,000 feet. This endemic requires limestone soils and grows in hot, rocky washes and canyons.

A densely branched shrub, Death Valley sage is often straggly looking. The entire plant is covered in white wool giving it an overall whitish or grey appearance. One book said it looks ghost-like. The white wool over the plant is thought to reflect heat and reduce the effect of strong, drying winds.

The ovate leaves of Death Valley sage are semi-deciduous or stress deciduous, the leaves fall during periods of extreme dryness. Thick and leathery, the opposite leaves vary in size and shape. They can have one, three or five spine tipped lobes. The leaves occur at closely spaced intervals along the stem, which like in all members of the Mint Family (Lamiaceae) are square in cross section.

The violet blue flowers occur in clusters (usually three) in the leaf axils. Bilaterally symmetrical, Death Valley sage flowers have a long corolla that terminates in five lobes, a two-lobed upper lip and a three-lobed lower lip. The corolla protrudes from a densely woolly calyx.

Death Valley sage fruits are small, brown nutlets.

Other common names for S funerea are woolly sage and funeral sage. The specific epithet, funerea, pertains to funeral in Latin. Death Valley sage was first described from the Funeral Mountains in Death Valley.

In March Leonard and I found this Death Valley sage in Fall Canyon at Death Valley National Park CA.

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