Monday, October 24, 2011

Fine Variations on a Winning Theme

Sagebrush is arguably the most successful and dominant plant in the Intermountain West, swathing landscapes in gray-green from subalpine peaks to low desert flats between the Columbia Basin and the Colorado Plateau.

Although well known, sagebrush is often unrecognized when it hides in plain view. It provides a subdued backdrop of small, dusky leaves and tiny, green flowers against which buttercups, larkspur,balsamroot, and lupines parade...

Sagebrush is self-sufficient and does not need insects to pollinate its flowers; it simply releases pollen for the wind to carry. Instead of relying on birds or mammals to disperse its seeds, sagebrush just drops them to the ground or skids them across firm snow like tiny curling stones.

Learn more in my most recent column in Rangelands.


  1. Sagebrush always makes me laugh. When I was a child and my mom was a new transplant to the west she would load my sister and me into her old Chrysler with upholstered seats. She'd cut off a few sprigs of sagebrush before heading to the hills to find some old dusty,logging roads. The smell of the sagebrush baking on the dashboard, mixed with the dust swirling around the back seat, and the curvy mountain roads invariable added up to Linda getting sick in the back seat. To this day, I don't like the smell of sagebrush. But, the plant is so endemic to the landscape of my life, that I have to love it and respect it. (I do like the smell of wet desert sagebrush after a rain storm!)

  2. Linda - Oh dear! Odors are so evocative; I'm sure others have unhappy memories about sagebrush, too. Apparently Guy Hand's mother didn't subject him to the same thing yours did.

    btw, you can hear Guy's entire Ode to Sage, which he produced for NPR's Living on Earth, here -