Herb Gardening
Plants and Flowers

What are the adaptations for sage brush?

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2015-02-07 09:56:34

Sagebrush is a common plant throughout the Western part of the

United States and is not related in any way to the herb known as

sage. When it is wet, it does smell somewhat like the herb, a

probable source of the name.

Because it grows in hot, dry climates, sagebrush has adapted to

minimal water requirements. It stores water in its small leaves and

does not give up that water easily. So one adaptation is that its

root system is able to obtain water when available. Its small waxy

leaves close up their stomata (little openings on the bottom of the

leaves) so as to hold on to water even during the hot, dry


Another adaptation is the formation of bitter tasting oils found

in the leaves and stems which protects it from being grazed down by

herbivores (rabbits, sheep, deer). Pronghorn antelope, also native

to the same regions, can tolerate grazing on sagebrush to some


The final adaptation is of a dual adaptation.

First, sagebrush reproduces primarily through underground

rhizomes. "Shoots" come off the main plant and then form a new

plant some distance away. This is an adaptation to the environment

because the new little plant can rely on water and nutrients from

the mother plant until it develops its own root system.

Second, because sagebrush does not tolerate fire and cannot come

back from roots or rhizomes after a fire, it also produces seeds on

a high stalk which are wind borne when mature. Seeds from plants

not affected by the fire can be blown into the area which was

burned off. As soon as water is available, usually from rain, the

seeds can germinate and get started in the nutrient-rich ash left

behind from the fire.

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