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  • San Diego Zoo andSafari Park


Plants: Species

Sage Salvia


Sage can be confusing, even to native Californians. You hear the name applied to several types of plants, but they don't seem to look alike. Well, here's the key: If you're looking for the herb, you want Salvia; if you're looking at those feathery clumps of gray-green foliage dotting the landscape, you've found Artemesia.

The world-renown sage plant has been a favorite of herbalists and healers for centuries. Salvia comes from the Latin "to save," referring both to its many medicinal uses and its part in ceremonial rites. Burning sage is said to cleanse a room or a person's thoughts of evil, and in some cultures sage was associated with immortality. Health-related uses include a gargle for a sore throat and a salve for skin ailments, since it has been found to have antibacterial properties.

Hummingbirds are fond of sages too, like Cleveland sage Salvia clevelandii and white sage Salvia apiana, but especially the big magenta flowers of pitcher sage Salvia spathacea, known as hummingbird sage!

The Herb Garden at the Safari Park has about 50 varieties, including Mexican sage Salvia leucantha and the South African Salvia dolomitica.