Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Salvia discolor, Andean sage

 The 30 cm long Salvia discolor inflorescence showing near black flowers held in a pistachio green calyx. 
This Peruvian native plant, which forms a loose, sprawling and untidy shrub to about 1 metre, has held on to a carnivorous gene as the flower stems exude a sticky substance which traps unwary insects. Today when I was potting on some of my plants there were plenty of black thrips caught along the way. Is this an additional adaptation to a harsh environment, as its leaves already have protection from white felt on their lower surface, as well as having an unpleasant smell when crushed. The stems are brittle and easily broken so perhaps this sage could be described as lazy, relying on other plants to weave and scramble upon in the search for best position.
This Salvia is becoming better known, the benchmark for this being the availability of a pictorial nursery label, though it remains in the collectors' plant category. I was having a conversation about untidy plants the other week with a nursery person at 'Tulip Time' in Bowral who was saying how many such plants are ignored because they are not neat enough for the commercial market. In a garden situation Salvia discolor can be grown in a sunny or semi shaded position, as a ground cover or spilling over the edge of a wall or raised garden bed. Placing it near clipped box or topiary, especially ones which have dark green or shiny leaves, will compliment it nicely. It will tolerate moderate frost and needs well drained average soil.

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