Scientific Name: Text and Photos by Victoria Stewart
Common Names: sagewood
Plant Type: Semi-evergreen shrub
Environment: Full sun, dry to well-drained soil
Uses: Hedge, border plant
Sagewood (Buddleja salviifolia) is a large shrub native to southern Africa, occurring from Tanzania at the northern end of its range running south to South Africa. In this wide range, there are large populations of sagewood and currently it is not experiencing any major conservation threats. It is typically found in forest margins, on rocky hillsides, and in riparian areas. The species has also become widely naturalized in New Zealand.
The semi-evergreen shrub has leaves that resemble those of Salvia, where the specific epithet salviifolia is derived from. Similarly, Salvia is also referred to as sage, so that similarity gives the species one of its common names, sagewood, as well. The species was first formally described in 1785 in the publication Encyclopédie Méthodique, Botanique by the French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck.
The small, light purple to white flowers of the sagewood shrub are pleasantly fragrant and will be in bloom throughout the spring. These attractive flowers are as popular with pollinators as they are with gardeners, and will attract all sorts of bees, butterflies, and birds while flowering.
Sagewood has a number of uses, both for humans and animals. The stems of the species are used to make fishing rods and handles for knives and spears. The leaves of the plant are eaten by game animals, such as the eland antelope (Taurotragus oryx). In addition to the roots, the leaves are also used in some traditional medicinal practices to treat various illnesses. Research has also been done in recent years into the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in the plant that could be used in modern medicines.
Sagewood grows quickly and will get quite large. It will typically reach heights of 12 ft and will often be equally as wide. The species prefers full sunlight and a variety of soil types from dry to well-drained.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS: Text and Photos by Victoria Stewart