Sage, Vervain

Botanical Name: Salvia Verbenaca
Family: N.O. Labiatae
Synonyms: Wild English Clary. Christ’s Eye. Oculus Christi.
Common Name: Wild clary
Parts Used: Leaves, seeds.

Habitat and Possible Locations: In Britain it is found wild in only one place on sand dunes at Vazon Bay in Guernsey. In Europe it is found in dry grassland, avoiding acid soils and shade.Meadow, Cultivated Beds.

Perennial growing to 0.6m. It is hardy to zone 6. It is in flower from June to September, and the seeds ripen from July to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees and Cleistogomy (self-pollinating without flowers ever opening). The plant is self-fertile. It is noted for attracting wildlife. We rate it 2 out of 5 for usefulness.

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The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.
The Wild English Clary, or Vervain Sage, is a native of all parts of Europe and not uncommon in England in dry pastures and on roadsides, banks and waste ground, especially near the sea, or on chalky soil. It is a smaller plant than the Garden Clary, but its medicinal virtues are rather more powerful.

Description: The perennial root is woody, thicky and long, the stem 1 to 2 feet high, erect with the leaves in distinct pairs, the lower shortly stalked, and the upper ones stalkless. The radical leaves lie in a rosette and have foot-stalks 1 1/2 to 4 inches long, their blades about the same length, oblong in shape, blunt at their ends and heart-shaped at the base, wavy at the margins, which are generally indented by five or six shallow, blunt lobes on each side, their surfaces much wrinkled. The whole plant is aromatic, especially when rubbed, and is rendered conspicuous by its long spike of purplish-blue flowers, first dense, afterwards becoming rather lax. The whorls of the spike are sixflowered, and at the base of each flower are two heart-shaped, fringed, pointed bracts. The calyx is much larger than the corolla. The plant is in bloom from June to August. The seeds are smooth, and like the Garden Clary, produce a great quantity of soft, tasteless mucilage, when moistened. If put under the eyelids for a few moments the tears dissolve this mucilage, which envelops any dust and brings it out safely. Old writers called this plant ‘Oculus Christi,’ or ‘Christ’s Eye.’

Cultivation details
Requires a very well-drained light sandy soil in a sunny position. Prefers a rich soil. Plants can be killed by excessive winter wet.
This species is well suited to the wild garden, growing well in the summer meadow. A good bee plant.
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer.
Seed – sow March/April in a greenhouse. Germination usually takes place within 2 weeks. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in early summer. In areas where the plant is towards the limits of its hardiness, it is best to grow the plants on in a greenhouse for their first winter and plant them out in late spring of the following year.

Edible Uses:
Condiment; Flowers; Leaves; Tea.
Leaves – raw or cooked. They are most often used as a flavouring in cooked foods. They are aromatic. The young leaves can be eaten fried or candied[183].

A herb tea is made from the leaves, it is said to improve the digestion.

Flowers – raw. A flavouring in salads

Medicinal Action and Uses: ‘A decoction of the leaves,’ says Culpepper, ‘being drank, warms the stomach, also it helps digestion and scatters congealed blood in any part of the body.’

This Clary was thought to be more efficacious to the eye than the Garden variety.

‘The distilled water strengthening the eyesight, especially of old people,’ says Culpepper, ‘cleaneth the eyes of redness waterishness and heat: it is a gallant remedy fordimness of sight, to take one of the seeds of it and put it into the eyes, and there let it remain till it drops out of itself, the pain will be nothing to speak on: it will cleanse the eyes of all filthy and putrid matter; and repeating it will take off a film which covereth the sight.’

The seed forms a thick mucilage when it is soaked for a few minutes in water. This is efficacious in removing small particles of dust from the eyes.

Other Species:
Salvia pratensis, the MEADOW SAGE – our other native Sage – is a very rare plant, found only in a few localities in Cornwall, Kent and Oxfordshire, and by some authorities is considered hardly a true native.

It is common in some parts of Italy and the Ionian Islands.

It has the habit of S. Verbenaca, but is larger. The flowers are very showy, large and bright blue, arranged on a long spike, four flowers in each whorl, the corolla (about four times as long as the calyx) having the prominent upper lip much arched and compressed and often glutinous. The stem bears very few leaves.

Several plants, though not true Sages, have been popularly called ‘Sage’: Phlomis fruticosa, a hardy garden shrub, 2 to 4 feet high, with flowers either yellow or dusky yellow, was known as Jerusalem Sage; Turner (1548) terms it so and he is followed in this by Green (1832), whereas Lyte (1578) gives this name to Pulmonaria officinalis, the Common Lungwort, and Gerard (1597), describing Phlomis fruticosa, gives it another name, saying, ‘The leaves are in shape like the leaves of Sage, whereupon the vulgar people call it French Sage.’ Gerard gives the name of ‘Sage of Bethlem’ to Pulmonaria officinalis; in localities of North Lincolnshire, the name has been given to the Garden Mint, Mentha viridis. ‘Garlick Sage’ is one of the names quoted by Gerard for Teucrium scorodonia, which we find variously termed by old writers, Mountain Sage, Wild Sage and Wood Sage.

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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