Salvia nemorosa Salvia nemorosa Salvia viridis Salvia verticillata Salvia vertillicata Salvia glutinosa Salvia glutinosa Salvia officinalis Salvia officinalis

Images: ©Jouko Lehmuskallio

Meadow Sage

Salvia pratensis

  • Name also: Meadow Clary
  • Family: Mint Family – Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb.
  • Height: 30–70 cm (12–28 in.). Stem 4-edged, with soft and glandular hairs.
  • Flower: Corolla irregular (zygomorphic), dark blue–violet, 20–30 mm (1.2–2.8 in.) long, fused, bilabiate, 5-lobed, long-tubed. Upper lip arching in a crescent shape, lower lip 3-lobed, central lobe bigger than lateral lobes. Calyx campanulate, 5-lobed, usually purple on top. Stamens 2. Gynoecium composed of 2 fused carpels, body longer than corolla. 4–6-flower whorls forming a lax interrupted spike.
  • Leaves: Mostly a basal rosette, opposite on stem, stalked. Leaf blade ovate–elongated, cordate-based, wrinkled, with margin double crenate–serrate. Subtending bracts small.
  • Fruit: 4-parted schizocarp.
  • Habitat: dumping and loading areas, beside railway tracks, banks, fields, herbariums, parks, gardens.
  • Flowering time: June–August.

Genus Salvia is the largest in the Mint family, and many species are culinary and ornamental plants. They don’t really grow wild in Finland. Meadow sage can mostly be found as a casual alien in busy places and around inhabited areas.

Genus Salvia’s wonderful flowers are among the largest in the Mint family. They have a very specialised pollination mechanism. Unlike most other members of the Mint family, salvia plants have only two stamens. Their anthers have split into two very different parts: one supports the pollen-containing filaments, which are protected by the flower’s upper lip; the other part has broadened into a spade-like sheet which has the task of partly closing the tube and receiving bumblebees as they push their proboscises down to reach the store of nectar. If an insect touches this sheet, the filaments at the other end of the structure rock forwards and touch the insect’s back. In the next flower this pollen will with luck end up on the stigma, which clearly juts out from the corolla.

Meadow sage is an impressive plant, but the most popular ornamental in Finland in the family is blue mound sage (S. × sylvestris), which is a cross between meadow sage and woodland sage (S. nemorosa). In principle the parent species would make nice additions to the perennial flower bed. Other Salvia plants that are cultivated in Finland as ornamentals include glutinous sage (S. glutinosa), annual clary sage (S. viridis) which looks a lot like blue mound sage and whorled sage (known also as lilac sage and ‘Purple rain, S. verticillata). Genus Salvia’s name is based on the Latin word salvare, meaning ’to cure’, and medicinal preparations used to be prepared from the root. Common sage (S. officinalis) in particular was believed to have curative properties that could address almost any disease or trouble, even to the point of promoting immortality.

Other species from the same family
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