Salvia garipensis

E.Mey. ex Benth.

Family : Lamiaceae
Common names
: Gariep sage (Eng.); Gariep salie (Afr.)

Salvia garipensis shrub

This hardy sage, of medium height and neat appearance, will appeal to those concerned with border plantings or indigenous water-wise gardens.

Salvia garipensis is a fast growing, multi-branched, semi-woody herbaceous perennial shrub, 0.61.2 m high. It has an upright, neat habit. The stems are square, which is characteristic of the sage family. The leaves are very variable, with some quite extreme cases being documented. These variables appear to be connected to habitat conditions or the growth stage of the plant. Generally the leaves are simple, elongated in one direction to broadly egg-shaped to almost, but not perfectly, triangular. They are irregularly notched and have an indented, toothed margin. Some leaves can be heart-shaped with a rounded base. The foliage is aromatic. Both young stems and leaves are covered in glandless, fine, short hairs and oil globules. Old woody stems are hairless.


Flowers are produced in whorls, at intervals along flowering stems, which have floral leaves. The persistent floral leaves are broad and rounded at the base and gradually taper to a sharp point (ovate-acuminate).


The flower is typical of sage, with a two-lipped corolla. The upper lip is hooded and houses the stigma and anthers, while the lower lip is cupped with the edges turned downwards, providing a platform for pollinators. White to pale blue flowers appear in spring and summer.
Black or dark brown, shiny nutlets are visible at the base of the calyx and fall out when ripe. They become very moist and sticky when wet.

Salvia garipensis differs from other Cape Salvia species by virtue of the size, shape and colour of the corolla, the calyx form and the scarcely increased size of the fruiting calyces.

Conservation status
Salvia garipensis is not threatened.

Distribution and habitat
The Gariep sage occurs in Namibia and in the Northern Cape of South Africa near Vioolsdrif. It occurs at altitudes of 6302200 m on well-drained stony slopes, along stream courses or in rock crevices.

Derivation of name and historical aspects
Salvia is the largest genus in the Lamiaceae family. The genus Salvia consists of approximately 900 species made up of annuals, perennials and shrubs. They are widely distributed around the world in warm temperate and tropical regions. 27 species are found naturally in South Africa. Noteworthy South African sages are Salvia africana-lutea, S. africana-caerulea, S. chamelaeagnea, S. namaensis and S. disermas. Sages are commonly grown as ornamentals.

Pliny the Elder, a Roman scientist and historian, was the first to use the name Salvia.

The virtues of sages can be found in old herbal woodcuts and engravings of medieval and Renaissance Europe, giving medicinal recipes or describing charms or spells.

Salvias have been popular since the 1970's for ornamental gardening.

The name Salvia is presumably derived from the Latin, salvus meaning uninjured, whole, safe, well or sound and salvere, to be in good health, referring to the medicinal value of the plants.

The epithet garipensis indicates that the species comes from the Gariep (=Orange River) area.

The original spelling of the epithet was changed to gariepensis by Bentham, but this change was not accepted and Meyer's spelling was retained.

Bees, butterflies and insects are attracted to Salvia flowers. The filaments of the stamens are hinged, which gives them mobility, allowing them to attach pollen to visiting pollinators.

Uses and cultural aspects
Most sages contain essential oils and have long been used in cooking and medicine all over the world, though no reference was found to Salvia garipensis specifically.


Growing Salvia garipensis

This sage is a wonderful addition to an herbaceous border planting with its fresh green foliage as a highlight amongst other perennials or fynbos. It will also add texture to a garden bedding display. The Gariep sage is best grown in open ground, but can do well in pots, as young plants, with well drained composted soils.

Young plants are planted out at the end of spring. Salvia garipensis is easily combined with most flowering perennials such as Felicia species, Selago species and Osteospermum jucundum or succulents including Aloe species. They also give good contrast with fynbos species of families such as Restionaceae and Proteaceae as well as Erica species.

The fast growing plants get untidy after 23 years and need to be pruned back hard or lifted and replanted. To keep plants looking trim, pinch out new growth to retain a balanced, full-bodied shape. Salvia requires full sun with good drainage. They will survive with little water but respond well to regular watering, especially in summer. No extra feeding is necessary for strong, healthy growth although an occasional foliar feed would do no harm and the plants will tolerate feeding with organic or chemical fertilizers.

Young plants are easy to propagate from seed, cuttings or division of the creeping rootstock.

Sow seeds late in spring and early summer into a general potting soil mix. Seeds germinate quickly and seedlings can be transplanted into well drained potting soil once the first pair of true leaves appears.

Take semi-hardwood tip cuttings in spring and summer. Cuttings must be without a terminal flowering bud. Place in rooting medium: 50% fine-milled bark and 50% polystyrene (perlite, vermiculite and peat are alternatives). Place under mist or enclose in plastic bag to retain humidity. Keep warm but out of direct sunlight.

The hairy and aromatic leaves of the plants do not have any major pest, but mealy bug can settle down near the base of the stems and leaves.

References and further reading

  • Hedge, I.C. 1974. Revision of Salvia in Africa including Madagascar and Canary Islands, 33(1). Notes from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 33(1).
  • Hyam, R. & Pankhurst, R. 1995. Plants and their names, a concise dictionary. Oxford University Press, New York.
  • Leistner, O.A. (ed.). 2000. Seed plants of southern Africa: families and genera. Strelitzia 10. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.



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