Sagebrush plant
Sagebrush leaves showing the 3 lobes on each leaf

Identification

Sagebrush is a very common plant in the fields, ridges, and wildlife corridor in Eagle Mountain. It can typically grow more than a meter (3 feet) tall, sometimes even more than 2 meters (6 feet). It is very aromatic and although it may not look like it, is in the same family as sunflowers and dandelions.

Each leaf is pale green to silvery gray and has three lobes which is where the genus name tridentata comes from. The trunk is relatively thick and usually crooked. The bark is grey.

Sagebrush has two root systems – a deep tap root that can go up to 4 meters (13 feet) into the ground to absorb moisture deep in the desert soil, and shallow roots that spread wide near the surface allowing it to absorb moisture quickly after a rain storm.

Shelter and Foragers

Sagebrush provides an important hiding place for jackrabbits, cotton tail rabbits, lizards and other small animals protecting them from predators such as the golden eagle.

It also provides a food source for pronghorn, mule deer and some other foragers, although the oils that give it the strong aroma also taste bitter deterring some foragers from eating it.

Indigenous Use

Anthropologists have discovered that many indigenous tribes used sage brush for medicinal purposes. They chewed it to relieve toothache, boiled a tea to ease stomach pains, and wrapped swollen or arthritic joints with a wet bundle to sooth joint pain. It was also steamed or burned like incense in some rituals or simply to purify the air.

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