One of the top-performing plants in the Haven's bee attractiveness studies is Russian sage. Garden books describe this plant along the lines of "...even though it's called Russian sage, it's not a sage. That name is for plants in the genus Salvia...." To quote from the Sunset Western Garden Book, "This popular plant is neither a sage nor from Russia."
Russian sage blooms from early summer through to frost and is well-utilized by bees
Well, the plant taxonomists have been at it again. So Russian sage, previously known as Perovskia atriplicifolia, has been reclassified and is now Salvia yangii. Just when we learned to pronounce per-ROVE-ski-uh! And to shake things up even more, rosemary is also now a salvia. It's understood to be a close relative of Russian sage and has been reclassified as Salvia rosmarinus. The correct way to write these is new name (old name). So Russian sage is Salvia yangii (Perovskia atriplicifolia) and rosemary is Salvia rosmarinus (Rosmarinus officinalis).
Russian sage is a nectar source for bees. Combine it with pollen sources like this coneflower for an attractive, bee-healthy combination.
Our understanding of Russian sage's native habitat remains unchanged. It's still not from Russia, but is native to grassland areas in western China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. These hot, dry, sunny areas have summer weather similar to California's Central Valley so it does well in our gardens.
A close view of a bee on its flower shows the characters that we often associate with the genus Salvia.
Honey bee on Russian sage flower. The fused lower petals are typical of the genus Salvia and create a bee landing pad.
Here are links to some of the scientific papers describing these changes for those who wish to learn more:
Salvia yangii. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Link here.
Taxon. 2017. Salvia united: The greatest good for the greatest number. Read here.
American Journal of Botany. 2012. Phylogenetics, biogeography, and staminal evolution in the tribe Mentheae (Lamiaceae). Read here.
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