What do you think of first when you think of Nevada? Las Vegas? Vast empty desert spaces? Nevada is affectionately called “the sagebrush state” so it should come as no surprise that sagebrush was named the official state flower in 1917.
Sagebrush is a wide-ranging perennial shrub that thrives all over western North America from Mexico in the south to Canada in the north and California in the west as far east as Nebraska. Sagebrush is aromatic and has a very pungent fragrance, especially when wet. It has greyish green leaves and very small yellow flowers. The shrub is typically 3-6 feet tall but can grow up to 12 feet in wet areas. It is an extremely tough and amazingly adaptive plant and can survive and even thrive in inhospitable terrain.
Sagebrush was vital to the traditional Native American cultures of the area, with all parts of the plant being used. The leaves were traditionally used medicinally, the smoke was used in rituals to ward off bad spirits, the bark was used to weave mats and baskets, the fibers were used to make rope, and the wood was burned for fuel. Sagebrush is also vital to the ecosystem, helping to aerate the soil and providing an important habit for native animals such as birds, rodents, and reptiles.