Written by Vinusha Ramesh, SVHS student and Coastal Watershed Council Restoration Intern

Photo Credit: Flickr Commons

Every second Saturday of the month, CWC (Coastal Watershed Council) leads River Health Days where volunteers help plant and care for a variety of native plant species to increase biodiversity and habitat complexity and support a healthy river ecosystem. Black Sage (Salvia mellifera) is one beneficial plant you may spot growing along the river.  



Black Sage is a perennial subshrub that is scientifically known as Salvia mellifera. Being the most common sage in California, this shrub is found in foothills, canyons, mesas, and chaparrals. Black Sage plants contain aromatic flowers that are white, blue, lavender, or occasionally a pale pink. Able to grow in a large variety of soils, they are very abundant and present all along the California coast. They can reach up to 6 ft tall and 10 ft wide. They are currently in bloom!


Ecological Significance 

Black Sage is a significant native plant as its nectar is an important source of food for hummingbirds and butterflies. The vibrant and aromatic flowers attract pollinators, and its seeds are consumed by our state bird, the quail, as well as various species of birds. Furthermore, Black Sage plants are fairly susceptible to damage from air pollution. Specifically, sulfur dioxide and ozone: two serious air pollutants. Therefore, these shrubs are great monitors of air pollution levels in areas throughout California. 


Traditional Uses 

Black Sage has been used for centuries dating back to the Tongva People. They used Black Sage for culinary purposes by dehydrating and grinding seeds into a meal used for baking. Also, crushed leaves and stems were used as mint-flavored seasonings. Other tribes created topical treatments for sore throats by using heated leaves. Finally, dehydrated leaves were placed into hot water to produce a tea with anti-inflammatory effects. 


Fun Fact 

Black Sage is an angiosperm, a part of the mint family. Often, members of this family produce potent essential oils. These oils vary from scents of pleasant mint to very pungent and not so pleasant scents!


Love Black Sage? Join CWC for a River Health Day! 

You can make a difference in the San Lorenzo ecosystem by caring for Black Sage and other native plants that enhance the ecological value of the San Lorenzo River habitat. Join other volunteers at monthly River Health Days to plant more native species. Sign up below!



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