This upright, semi-evergreen perennial herb has attractive foliage and long-blooming, lavender flowers. Its fast-spreading rosettes of green, purple-tinged leaves--often in the shape of a lyre--are similar to ajuga, a popular non-native plant that is used as a groundcover. Lyre leaf sage thrives and achieves maximum color in full sun and sandy or rocky soils, but it adapts to loam or clay soils and light shade, though with more-subdued coloring. The flower stalks grow 1-3 feet tall, and each one bears several whorls of delicate flowers. The two-lipped, tubular flower is an efficient structure that attracts many of our native pollinators. When insects land on the extended lower lip to retrieve nectar, the stamens tip and sprinkle the insect with pollen.
Like other members of the mint family, lyre leaf sage has a square stem and a tendency towards prolific reproduction. It’s an excellent alternative to grass because of its short height, dense form, and tolerance for foot traffic and mowing. In summer, a deep soaking once a month will ensure full coverage. Once established, it tolerates occasional drought or overwatering.
Native habitats include open woods, upland woods and savannas, wet to dry meadows, sandy soils of woods or meadows, and sand or gravel bars along rivers. A popular, versatile plant for beds and borders, naturalized areas, and a variety of types of gardens.
Prefers full sun or light shade.
Grows 1-3’ tall.
Prefers moist-to-dry, well-drained sand or gravel, but adapts to loam and clay.
1” white, pale blue, or lavender 2-lipped flowers with purplish-brown sepals bloom March through June, followed by round, dark seeds, or nutlets.
Dark-green, purple-tinged leaves are often deeply 3-lobed and scattered on upper part of the stem. Variably shaped leaves, 2-6” long, form a rosette at the base. Soft, white hairs cover the leaves, stems, and flowers.
Host plant for 8 species of lepidoptera larvae, including wavy-lined emerald, hermit sphinx, and Hawaiian beet webworm moths. Visiting bees may include carpenter, leaf-cutting, and mason. Mourning doves and other birds eat the nutlets.
Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:
Native Americans used the root as a salve for sores. They used all of the plant parts to brew a tea for colds and coughs.
One of its common names, cancerweed, refers to a disproven belief that the leaves could cure cancer.
Young leaves add a slightly minty flavor to salads. The plant may be dried and brewed into tea.
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