Artemisia tridentata Nutt.

by Scott McKenna, Native Plants Class
Common Names: Big sagebrush, blue sagebrush
Family: Asteraceae
Synonymy: (threetip sagebrush). Threetip sagebrush is smaller, has leaves that are deeply cleft into three narrow, linear divisions.
Etymology: The epithet tridentata, refers to the 3-toothed leaves.
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Identification
Growth form:
Big sagebrush is a rounded deciduous shrub to 3m. tall. With silvery-green leaves.
Roots: The root system is fiberous.
Stem: Short, thick trunk or several branches from the base.
Leaves: Leaves of vegetative shoots are sessile or on short petiole, cuneate with 3 blunt teeth at the apex, 1-4 cm. long and about 2-12mm. wide. Are silver-green in color, alternate, solitary or in groups, hairy on both sides.
Inflorescence/flowers: Flower head consists of 3-15, all perfect and fertile, tubular flowers. Corollas 2-3mm. long, flower heads mostly erect on branches 15-40 cm. long, involucres 3-4mm. long, and 8-15 phylleries.
Fruit: Fruit are perfect, seed-producing. Seeds are small, hairless, cylindrical, top-shaped with 4-5 angles or ribs.
Similar species: Artemisia arbuscula. A. arbuscula has a much smaller growth form and grows much closer to the ground.

Ecology
Life history:
Perennial shrub.
Native/introduced: Native
Photosynthetic pathway: C3
Phenology: July-October
Distribution: British Columbia to South Dakota, south to New Mexico and Baja California. In Arizona, found in all counties except Yavapai at 5000-8000 feet.

Uses
Forage:
An Abundant source of feed for goat and sheep, especially for winter grazing.
Medicinal: The Spanish used the leaves of Artemisia tridentata as a cure for rhumtism, headaches, croup, chest pains, common cold, and indegestion.

References
1. W.B. Mcdougall. 1973. Seed Plants of Northern Arizona. Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff.

2. U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service. 1988. Range Plant Handbook. Dover Publications Inc. New York,NY.