Artemisia abrotanoides Nutt.
Artemisia fischeriana Besser
Artemisia foliosa Nutt.
Crossostephium californicum (Less.) Rydb.
Mature plant growing in Gaviota State Park, California, USA
Photograph by: Antandrus
Artemisia californica is a pungently aromatic plant with several to numerous, more or less woody stems arising from the root crown; it usually grows 150 - 250cm tall, but is sometimes much smaller. The plant retains its leaves all year round if there is sufficient moisture, becoming deciduous during drought[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine. It is grown as an ornamental, being especially valuable in arid and semi-arid regions[
Although we have seen no specific reports for this species, many members of this genus contain potentially allergenic sesquiterpene lactones that can cause skin reactions[
Southwest N. America - California, Baja California
Coastal scrub, dry foothills, growing on a wide range of soils, though they often contain large amounts of gravel, are typically thin and undeveloped, and have little ability to retain nutrients and water; at elevations up to 800 metres[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
Artemisia californica is a plant of Mediterranean climates, characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, moist winters. It grows in areas where the mean annual precipitation is 250 - 450mm, with 90% of that falling in the cooler half of the year[
]. The plant grows best where winter temperatures averave 9 - 12°c and summer temperatures do not exceed 24 - 27°c, though the plant does experience both lower and higher temperatures[
Species in this genus are generally easily grown, succeeding in a well-drained circumneutral or slightly alkaline loamy soil, preferring a sunny position[
]. They tend to be longer lived, more hardy and more aromatic when they are grown in a poor dry soil[
]. Established plants are drought tolerant[
The plant responds well to regular pruning to keep it compact[
Several low-growing cultivars have been developed for ornamental use[
The leaves are highly aromatic due to the presence of terpenes[
]. The aroma is markedly like that of the culinary mints known as common sage (Salvia species)[
The smaller leaves remain wilted for long periods of time when the plant is under water stress, and rehydrate within hours of rainfall[
Plants can resprout from the rootcrown after a fire[
The plants are sensitive to atmospheric pollution[
The pollen is extracted and used as a desensitizing agent for the relief of hay fever[
The plant was an important medicinal herb for the native North Americans, who used it for a variety of purposes but in particular as an emmenagogue and birthing aid. It was used to induce menstruation, provide a comfortable child-birth experience, and promote rapid postnatal recovery. Beginning with the onset of menstruation, young girls were given a tea made from boiled California sagebrush. From this point forward, California sagebrush tea was drunk just prior to each menstrual period for the duration of their reproductive life. The drink was also given to newborn babies one day after birth to clean out their system. The leaves were also used to relieve colds, chewed fresh or dried, and were smoked after mixing with tobacco and other leaves. They were also used in sweathouses for various cures[
Used externally, the leaves can be processed into a poultice and applied directly to the forehead to relieve headaches[
The essential oil from this plant contains 5 toxic terpenes. It has been suggested that the release of terpenes by California sagebrush contributes to the relative lack of vegetation under and adjacent to the shrub. During the first rains of December, the leaf drip from California sagebrush is toxic. The rain leaches toxins from the leaves and litter that is absorbed by the soil, adding to toxins previously deposited by volatilization during the dry season[
California sagebrush seeds and transplants have been used successfully in the rehabilitation of disturbed sites[
The plant is said to have potential for use in erosion control[
The branches have been used as firesticks[
Seed - surface sow from late winter to early summer in a greenhouse, making sure that the compost does not dry out[
]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer.
Division in spring or autumn[
Basal cuttings in late spring. Harvest the young shoots when about 10 - 15cm long, pot up in a lightly shaded position in a greenhouse or cold frame and plant them out when well rooted. Very easy.