Plant Profiles Silver Sagebrush Artemisia Cana

Silver sagebrush is a type of shrub that grows in the Northern Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, in the intermountain areas and the valley bottoms. It is also a native plant or United States. It grows actively during spring, summer and fall. Flowers and seed production are mostly observed from late summer until fall. Its leaves are alternate, silvery -green and rhizomatous. This shrub is able to live for several years. Its disc-shaped flowers are yellow. Its fruit is small and capable of bearing one seed. Its root structure is a taproot with lateral roots. Silver sagebush can grow up to five feet high upon reaching its maturity. Its height varies upon its place of origin. Sagebush species that grows on uplands are smaller compared to the ones that grow in bottomlands.

Silver sagebush has a scientific name Artemisia cana, and has three subspecies: bolander silver sagebrush (Artemisia cana bolanderi), plains silver sagebrush (Artemisia cana cana), and mountain silver sagebrush (Artemisia cana viscidula). Aside from its subspecies, silver sagebrush can also hybridize with other woody sagebrush species (Artemisia subgenus Tridentatae) like threetip sagebrush, big sagebrush and low sagebrush.

Bolander silver sagebrush can be found from north-central Oregon.  Its height could be less than three feet. The stems are woody at the bottom. The leaves are narrow and small that ranges from one to two inches long. Its fruits are small, about one millimeter and resinous.

Plains silver sagebrush can be found from southern British Columbia east to southwestern Manitoba and south to western Nebraska. This could be the tallest among the other subspecies of silver sagebrush, because this can grow from three to four feet or even up to six feet tall. It grows erectly and branches freely. Its leaves are larger and wider, and have a white covering called tomentum.

Mountain silver sagebrush can be found on the west of the Continental Divide. This could be the smallest among the subspecies. Its height ranges only from three-tenths of a foot to one foot. Like the plains silver sagebrush, this grows erecly and branches freely.  Its leaves are lobed and small. Its leaves also have a covering that is less white compared to the plains silver sagebrush’s.

Compared to woody sagebrush species, silver sagebrush has a high tolerance to drought. The tolerance to drought of silver sagebrush varies with the plant’s maturity and subspecies. According to the anecdotal evidence from the northern Great Plains, silver sagebrush survived drought of the “dust bowl era” better than the big sagebrush. 

Silver sagebrush is one of the most edible species of sagebrushes. Its high carbohydrate content makes it a highly recommended food for cattle and sheep during winter.