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Salvia officinalis L.

Salvia officinalis L.




Salvia chromatica Hoffsgg., Salvia papillosa Hoffsgg.

Vernacular Names


Sage, garden sage, true sage.


Salvia (Cebu­ano).



Geographical Distributions

Salvia officinalis is native to the Adriatic belt of the Balkan peninsula (Greece, Albania, former Yugoslavia) and doubt­fully native but certainly naturalized in southern France and in Spain. It is widely cultivated in Eu­rope, particularly in the Mediterranean, but it has spread widely and is cultivated in many countries of all continents. In Malaysia, it is grown in the hills of Penang, in Indonesia in the mountainous regions of Java, and in the Philippines on special­ized farms in Luzon at altitudes above 500 m.


Salvia officinalis is a perennial, erect or decumbent subshrub that can grow 40-70 cm tall. It roots at the base, and very aromatic with small, sessile, oil globules on the greenest parts. The stem is quadrangular and hairy patent.

The leaves are arranged opposite and simple. The petiole is 0-5 cm long. The blade is oblong-Iance-shaped to elliptical, and measuring 1-10 cm x 0.25-5 cm. It is entire, wrinkled and more or less narrowed at the base. The margin is thickly herbaceous, greenish above, white-pubescent beneath and densely pubes­cent when young.

The inflorescence is raceme-like, measures 10-30 cm long, composed of axillary reduced cymes that form false whorls (verticillasters) and rarely branched. The remote verticillasters are sessile and 4-10 ­flowered. The pedicel is up to 1 cm long. The sepal is bell-shaped, 10-15 mm long, and 2-lipped, with the lower lip 2-dentate while upper lip 3-dentate. The petal is tubular, measures up to 3.5 cm long, violet-blue, pink or white, with a ring of hairs inside and 2-lipped. The lips are about equal in length with the upper lip erect while the lower lip is 3-­lobed and curved outward. There are 2 stamens with short filaments, hairless and articulate with a slender con­nective. The connective is linear, transverse and both arms are subequal. Each bears a fertile, linear anther cell but the upper one is larger than the lower one. The disk is equal­sided. The pistil is with a deeply 4-partite ovary and a shortly 2-fid and hairless style.

The fruit is composed of 4 nutlets. The nutlet is nearly globular to three-angled, measures up to 2.5 mm in diametre, smooth and dark brown.

Ecology / Cultivation

Salvia officinalis grows best in rich clay loam with good drainage, and in sunny but protected loca­tions. Ample light and high temperatures promote the production of essential oil, so that sage culti­vated in Dalmaty (Yugoslavia) yields 2.5% essen­tial oil compared with 1.4% when cultivated in northern Europe. Experiments on photoperiodic response point to most profuse flowering under long-day conditions. Thanks to its woody parts that sage is rather hardy.

Line Drawing / Photograph


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  1)  Essential Oil


  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No.13: Spices.

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