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Common and Scientific Names

Sagebrush is the common name of the plant
Artemisia tridentata.
The scientific name for sagebrush is Artemisia tridentata.

Artemisia comes from the name for the Greek goddess of the hunt and wild nature, Artemis. The Greek, tridentata, means "three toothed" for the three lobed leaves which look like teeth.

Artemisia tridentata is known by the common names:
big sagebrush, common wormwood,
and basin sagebrush.

Sagebrush first occurred about 15 million years ago in the late Miocene Epoch. In the Miocene Epoch the climate began to dry in the western North American continent causing excellent conditions for sagebrush.

What Does SageBrush Look Like?

A woody shrub, sagebrush grows from about two to seven feet high in places with plenty of water and deep soil. Artemisia tridentata has silvery colored leaves that stay green all year. Each leaf of the sagebrush has three lobes that look similar to teeth. The leaves of Artemisia tridentata are narrow and covered with tiny hairs. These hairs protect the sagebrush from drying out in the wind and alternately hot and cold temperatures of Idaho.

The thick trunk of the sagebrush has many side branches that swoop upwards. The young stems are smooth and silvery, but as the shrub matures, the stems turn grayer and the bark begins to grow in long strips.

Flowering stems grow near the ends of the branches. Tiny yellow or cream-colored flowers bloom in dense clusters on sagebrush in late summer to early fall. The seeds of the sagebrush are black and very tiny. One sagebrush can produce a million seeds.

Where Is Sagebrush Found?

Sagebrush prefers drier plains or rocky areas.

Sagebrush Cordage

Idaho's Native Peoples used sagebrush bark as a source of cordage and wove the plant's fibers into clothing, sleeping mats, and moccasins.

Image: Idaho Museum of Natural History

The only preparation needed for sagebrush bark cordage was to rub the bark between the hands to make it soft and to remove small pieces of bark. Soaking the bark in water made it more pliable.

Usually, the bark was harvested from tall sagebrush, because the strands of bark would be longer and make better cordage.