Silver Sage, Pasture Sage
Common on the grasslands, this perennial has a woody base, but the new growth is soft and silky. Its silver grey foliage is very aromatic when handled. Growing 15–50 cm high, the stalks end with inconspicuous yellow flowers borne in loose racemes.
According to Wilkinson, the Blackfoot made a smudgy fire of the green plants to repel mosquitoes, and placed branches under the bedding to discourage bedbugs. (246) Johnston reports a less obvious use. He writes, “The Cheyenne knew the species as He-e-wa’-nost or woman’s weed, as it was used by the women during the period of their menses as a tea....The name, Kaksamis or she sage, suggests that Blackfoot women used it for the same purpose.” (56) Hungry Wolf adds that its most important use was as a menstrual pad (18), and that it was crushed and rubbed on as a deodorant.(7) He identifies one other use in personal hygiene: its leaves, being soft, were also “the most common form of ‘toilet paper’ in primitive times.” (18)
Johnston also reports its use as a medical treatment for ailments ranging from mountain fever to heartburn to colds and coughs, and its use in Blackfoot religious ritual. (56)
Growth habit and range: This plant is an upright perennial herb with a somewhat woody base which is commonly found on open sites throughout the prairie and aspen parkland regions. It grows to a height of 15–50 cm.
Description: The soft, grey-green leaves occur alternately on the stem, are 1–3 cm long and divided two to three times into linear segments. The silvery leaf colour is due to the many dense, fine hairs that cover the surface. A sage-like scent is emitted when the leaves are touched. The flowers are small and yellowish in colour, and are borne in racemes on the upper stems from July to September. Only 2–3 mm long disk florets are present, and these are covered by hairy bracts measuring 2–4 mm in length. The fruit is a smooth, yellow to brown achene measuring about 1 mm in length.
Hungry Wolf, Adolf. 1989. Teachings of Nature. Good Medicine Books, BC.
Johnston, Alex. 1987. Plants and the Blackfoot. Occasional Paper No. 15., Lethbridge Historical Society, AB.
Wilkinson, Kathleen. 1999. Wildflowers of Alberta: A Guide to Common Wildflowers and Other Herbaceous Plants. University of Alberta Press and Lone Pine Publishing, AB.