Wood Sage

Wood Sage
by Adiel Robert

This herb has spread from beech and spruce forests to form original, more or less natural spreads in valley flood-plain forests and on narrow alluvial deposits laid down by streams and rivers. It is also an element, along with Hare’s Lettuce (Prenanthes purpurea), in mountain spruce forests.

It grows in glades and woodlands, chiefly in rather hilly country, in broad-leaved and mixed as well as coniferous forests in central Europe, but is absent from Britain. It always serves as an indication of fertile soil with high mineral content, ranging from neutral to slightly acidic.

Fireweed has a worldwide distribution growing most abundantly in the more northerly parts of Europe, Asia, and North America. It is very common chiefly on soils laid down by the weathering of rocks rich in the important mineral known as silica.

Most species have a pleasant fragrance. Marum L., however, smells like Valerian and, its odour is particularly compelling to tom-cats. Water Germander (T. scorodium L), a plant of the waters edge and wetlands, smells like garlic, and Wood Sage likewise includes a pungent odour slightly reminiscent of sage.

The long leaves – five times as long as they are wide – are nearly smooth on both sides. The flowering period is from July until September. The flowerheads are small, with only five to eight ray petals and eight involucral bracts. The achenes are hairy.

The related S. nemorensis L. differs in having ten to twelve involucral bracts and pubescent stem and leaves. It grows in the mountain and sub-Alpine belt and in the mountain meadows and broad-leaved forests at higher elevations. It is not, however, seen in the Alps.

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