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Salvia fruticosa

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Salvia fruticosa
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Salvia
S. fruticosa
Binomial name
Salvia fruticosa

Salvia libanotica Boiss. & Gaill.
Salvia triloba L.
Salvia cypria
Salvia lobryana

Salvia fruticosa,[1] or Greek sage, is a perennial herb or sub-shrub[2] native to the eastern Mediterranean, including Southern Italy, the Canary Islands and North Africa. It is especially abundant in Palestine, Israel[3] and Lebanon.


Greek sage grows 2 ft (0.61 m) high and wide, with the flower stalks rising 1 ft (0.30 m) or more above the foliage. The entire plant is covered with hairs, with numerous leaves of various sizes growing in clusters, giving it a silvery and bushy appearance. The flowers are pinkish-lavender, about .5 in (1.3 cm) long, growing in whorls along the inflorescence, and held in a small oxblood-red five-pointed hairy calyx. In its native environment it grows as part of the Maquis shrubland and several other open plant communities, but populations composed entirely of Salvia fruticosa are not uncommon.[3]

It is also grown as an ornamental flowering shrub, preferring full sun, well-draining soil, and good air circulation. Hardy to 20 degrees F., it is very drought resistant. The leaves have a high oil content, with some of the same chemicals as lavender.[3]


Due its wide variation in leaf shape, there has been a great deal of taxonomic confusion over the years, with many of the leaf variations of Salvia fruticosa being named as distinct species. These include S. libanotica, S. triloba, S. lobryana, and S. cypria, which are now considered to be Salvia fruticosa.[4][5] The variation in leaf depends on geographical area, with plants growing on the western part of Crete having entire leaves with flat blade and margins and dark green upper sides. Plants growing on the eastern side of the island have much smaller leaves, with deeply three-lobed yellowish-green blade and undulate margins. The variation continues throughout different parts of Greece.[6]

Adding to the confusion over the name, the plant has also been called Salvia triloba, as named by Carl Linnaeus the Younger in 1781, until it was discovered that it was the same as the plant named by Philip Miller in 1768, with the earlier name receiving preference according to plant naming conventions.[3] Local names include sage apple, Khokh barri, and Na’ama Hobeiq’es-sedr.


It has a long tradition of use in Greece, where it is valued for its beauty, medicinal value, and culinary use, along with its sweet nectar and pollen. Salvia fruticosa was depicted in a Minoan fresco circa 1400 BCE at Knossos on the island of Crete.[3] The ancient Phoenicians and Greeks likely introduced the plant for cultivation to the Iberian peninsula, with remnant populations of these introduced plants still found in some coastal areas.[6] Greek sage accounts for 50–95% of the dried sage sold in North America,[7][8] and is grown commercially for its essential oil.[9] It also has a long tradition of use in various Muslim rituals—for newborn children, at weddings, in funerals, and burnt as incense.[10] A cross between S. fruticosa and Salvia officinalis developed in the middle east is called "silver leaf sage" or Salvia" Newe Ya'ar'", and is used in cooking.[11][12]

In its native habitat, it frequently develops woolly galls about 1 inch in diameter which are called 'apples'. These 'apples' are peeled and eaten when they are soft, and are described as being fragrant, juicy, and tasty.[3] The formation of galls was originally thought to be limited to Salvia pomifera,[13] which led to the misidentification of many gall-bearing Salvia fruticosa plants.[14] In 2001 it was discovered that the galls on Salvia fruticosa were caused by a previously undiscovered genus of Cynipid gall wasp.[15]


  1. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Salvia fruticosa". The PLANTS Database (plants.usda.gov). Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  2. ^ Near the limits of its cold-hardiness, woody stems of Salvia fruticosa may die back almost to the ground.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Clebsch, Betsy; Barner, Carol D. (2003). The New Book of Salvias. Timber Press. pp. 125–127. ISBN 978-0-88192-560-9.
  4. ^ "A number of taxa described from the E Mediterranean are nowadays considered as synonyms of Salvia fruticosa (Greuter & al. 1986). Their original descriptions suggest that they are characterized either by three lobed leaves (S. triloba L. fil.), or very small leaves (S. libanotica Boiss & Gaill.; S. cypria Kotschy; S. lobryana Aznav.)." Karousou, Regina; Stella Kokkini (September 1999). "Distribution and clinal variation of Salvia fruticosa Mill. (Labiatae)". Biochemical Systematics and Ecology. 27 (6): 559–568. doi:10.1016/S0305-1978(98)00122-7.
  5. ^ Kintzios, pp. 35–36.
  6. ^ a b Kintzios, Spiridon E. (2000). Sage: The Genus Salvia. CRC Press. pp. 30–31. ISBN 978-90-5823-005-8.
  7. ^ Hanson, Beth (2004). Designing an Herb Garden. Brooklyn Botanic Garden. p. 58. ISBN 978-1-889538-63-1.
  8. ^ "Salvia fruticosa". Plants for a Future. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
  9. ^ Länger, R.; Mechtler, Ch.; Jurenitsch, J. (December 4, 1998). "Composition of the Essential Oils of Commercial Samples of Salvia officinalis L. and S. fruticosa Miller: A Comparison of Oils Obtained by Extraction and Steam Distillation". Phytochemical Analysis. 7 (6): 289–293. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-1565(199611)7:6<289::AID-PCA318>3.0.CO;2-7. Archived from the original on 2013-01-05.
  10. ^ Dafni, Amots; Efraim Lev; Sabine Beckmann; Christian Eichberger (September 10, 2006). "Ritual plants of Muslim graveyards in northern Israel". Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine. 2 (38): 38. doi:10.1186/1746-4269-2-38. PMC 1584233. PMID 16961931.
  11. ^ "Salvia officinalis x Salvia fruticosa" (PDF). Promising Plants Profiles. The Herb Society of America. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  12. ^ Joan Benjamin; Erin Hynes (1 May 1996). Great garden shortcuts: 100s of all-new tips and techniques that guarantee you'll save time, save money, save work. Rodale Press. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-87596-702-8. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  13. ^ Salvia pomifera, "apple-bearing sage".
  14. ^ Tsekos, Ioannes; Michael Moustakas (1998). Progress in Botanical Research. Springer. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-7923-5305-8.
  15. ^ Zerova, Marina Dmitrievna; Ludmila Yakovlevna Seryogina; George Melika; Tomáš Pavlicek; Eviatar Nevo (2003). "New Genus and New Species of Cynipid Gall Inducing Wasp" (PDF). Journal of the Entomological Research Society. 5 (1): 35–49.

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