Mint family (Lamiaceae)
This herbaceous plant is a short-lived perennial that forms a rosette
of basal leaves; it later bolts to form a flowering stalk that becomes
1–3' tall. The basal leaves are 2½–6" long and 1–3½" across and
variably shaped; they are ovate, obovate, oblanceolate, or broadly
elliptic in outline. The majority of basal leaves are pinnatifid with a
larger terminal lobe and 1-3 pairs of smaller lateral lobes. These
lobes are rounded, shallow to deep, and somewhat undulate. Some basal
leaves lack significant lobes, however, and their margins are merely
undulate. In addition, some basal leaves may have blunt dentate teeth.
The whitish and
relatively stout petioles of the basal leaves are ¾–3½" long; they are
concave above, convex below, and sparsely to moderately hairy.
flowering stalk is light to medium green, sparsely to moderately hairy,
and 4-angled. Along the lower one-half of its length, there are 0-2
pairs of opposite leaves (usually a single pair). The opposite leaves
are 1–3" long, ¼–1" across, and sessile (or nearly so); they are
elliptic to broadly elliptic in shape or, less often, shallowly
pinnatifid. The margins of the opposite leaves are either toothless or
they may have blunt dentate teeth. The leaf surfaces of both
basal and opposite leaves are medium to dark green, sometimes with
purplish coloration; they are sparsely hairy. Leaf venation is pinnate.
The inflorescence consists of a spike-like raceme of whorled flowers
about ½–1½' long; the whorls of flowers are remotely spaced along the
central stalk, and there are 4-12 flowers per whorl (typically about
6). Each flower is about ¾–1" long, consisting of a light blue-violet
or lavender corolla, a medium green calyx, 2 fertile stamens and 2
infertile residual stamens, a slender style with a bifurcated tip, and
a 4-celled ovary.
The corolla is tubular-funnel shaped (widest at its
mouth, tapering gradually toward its base) and two-lipped. The upper
lip is smaller in size and divided into 3 rounded lobes (1 upper lobe
and 2 lateral lobes), while the lower lip is larger in size, slightly
notched, and often whitish.
The 2-lipped calyx has 3 small upper teeth that are little more than
awns and 2 larger lower teeth that taper into awn-like tips; the entire
calyx is angular-ribbed and wider at its mouth than its base. The outer
surface of the corolla has sparse fine pubescence, while the outer
surface of the calyx is sparsely hairy. The pedicels of the flowers are
less than ¼" long and pubescent. The blooming period occurs
from mid-spring to early summer, lasting about 1 month. Afterwards, each flower
is replaced by 4 dark brown to black nutlets that are about 2 mm.
in length. and ovoid in shape. The root system consists of a shallow
crown with coarse fibrous roots.
The preference is full sun to light shade, moist to dry-mesic
conditions, and soil containing sand, rocky material, or gravel.
However, ordinary garden soil containing loam or clay-loam is
acceptable if competition from taller plants is eliminated or reduced.
Northern ecotypes of this plant are more likely to be winter-hardy in
Habitat: Lyre-leaved Sage (Salvia
lyrata) is occasional in southern Illinois, where it is
Illinois lies along the northwestern range-limit of
this plant. Habitats include upland woodlands in rocky areas, areas
adjacent to woodland paths, rocky semi-wooded slopes, upland savannas,
edges and upper slopes of bluffs, limestone or sandstone glades,
sandbars and gravel bars along rivers, semi-shaded roadsides, and
pastures. This plant is sometimes cultivated in flower gardens,
especially cultivars with purplish foliage. Outside of the state,
Lyre-leaved Sage is often found in sandy habitats. In Illinois, it is
found in both high quality habitats and more degraded sites.
Associations: Smith et al. (2012) observed large carpenter
(Xylocopa), leaf-cutting bees (Megachile), and mason bees (Hoplitis,
Osmia) visiting the flowers (probably for nectar). Mourning Doves eat
the seeds (Lewis, 1993). The foliage of this plant is probably avoided
as a food source by most mammalian herbivores. It is possible that the
awn-like tips of the calyces may cling to the fur of mammals,
dispersing the seeds to new areas.
Along a woodland path at the Portland Arch Nature Preserve in
Except for Wild Blue Sage (Salvia
azurea), Lyre-leaved Sage
is the only native sage (Salvia) in Illinois. All of the
others are either adventive from areas further to the west, or they
were introduced from abroad as ornamental plants and culinary herbs.
Lyre-leaved Sage is remarkable for the variability of its basal leaves.
Because other sages and similar species in the Mint family in
Illinois have mostly opposite leaves, rather than basal leaves, it is
relatively easy to identify. Another common name of this plant is