Big Sagebrush (Tridentata)

The Big Sagebrush (Tridentata) is generally described as a perennial tree or shrub. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the mid summer, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are retained year to year. The Big Sagebrush (Tridentata) has a long life span relative to most other plant species and a slow growth rate. At maturity, the typical Big Sagebrush (Tridentata) will reach up to 4 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 3 feet.

The Big Sagebrush (Tridentata) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have low vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -43°F. has high tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Livestock: The leaves are high in protein but the bitter resinous taste prevents extensive grazing by cattle. Sheep will eat young plants and new growth readily when other forages are dry. They will also make considerable use of the plant in the winter.

Wildlife: Sage grouse are the heaviest users of sagebrush. As much as 70 to 75 percent of their diet is made up of foliage and flower clusters of the plant. Antelope eat substantial amounts of sagebrush throughout the year, and mule deer feed heavily on the plant during late fall, winter, and spring, particularly if other foods are covered with snow. Sharp-tailed grouse, jackrabbits, elk, and many species of small mammals eat sagebrush sparingly during various times of the year. Sagebrush provides nesting cover for sage grouse, and to a lesser extent pheasants and several species of prairie sparrows. It provides loafing and escape cover for sage grouse, chukar, sharp tailed grouse, gray (Hungarian) partridge, pheasants, quail, jackrabbits, and deer.

General Characteristics

Big sagebrush and its subspecies, are tall, rounded, U.S. native shrubs with short branched, woody trunks. The height is normally about 4 feet, but varies from 2 feet in arid conditions to as high as 15 feet on favorable sites. The winter persistent leaves are wedge to fan-shaped and are usually three-lobed at tips. They are strongly aromatic. Buds form about June with flowering and seed formation in the fall.

Required Growing Conditions

Big sagebrush is drought tolerant but cannot stand excessive sub-moisture. It grows on moderately shallow to deep, well drained, sandy to silt loam soils of neutral to slightly alkaline reaction. Big sagebrush occurs on practically all range except meadows and at high elevations.

Big sagebrush is distributed throughout the western United States.

Cultivation and Care

This has not been a factor to date since its value hasn’t been considered great enough. Control has been more important. It is a good seed producer and increases rapidly when soil is disturbed in its natural habitat. Livestock over-grazing can also promote the increase of big sagebrush populations.

General Upkeep and Control

Control is accomplished by chemical sprays, fire, railing, chaining, and beating. Good range management of deep-rooted perennial grasses is a control measure.

Pests and Potential Problems This plant has no serious pests.

Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (and area of origin) None recommended at this time.

Control Please contact your local agricultural extension specialist or county weed specialist to learn what works best in your area and how to use it safely. Always read label and safety instructions for each control method. Trade names and control measures appear in this document only to provide specific information. USDA, NRCS does not guarantee or warranty the products and control methods named, and other products may be equally effective.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Slow
General Type Tree, Shrub
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Long
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Mid Summer
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Multiple Stem
Drought Tolerance High
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 4
Vegetative Spread Slow
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance Medium
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -43
Soil Depth for Roots 20
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 6–8.2 pH
Precipitation Range 6–6 inches/yr
Planting Density 700–2700 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 20
Minimum Frost-Free Days 90 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance Low
CaCO3 Tolerance High
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention Yes
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating Low

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA