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Big Red Sage

Salvia penstemonoides

Other common name(s):

Penstemon Sage

Family:

Lamiaceae (Mint Family)

Plant Ecoregion Distribution Map

Edwards Plateau
Balcones Canyonlands, Edwards Plateau Woodland, Llano Uplift, Semiarid Edwards Plateau

Plant Characteristics

Growth Form

Herbaceous

Height

3
to
6
ft.

Spread

1
to
2
ft.

Leaf Retention

Semi Evergreen

Lifespan

Perennial

Habitat and Care Requirements

Soil Type(s)

Loam, Clay, Limestone, Well Drained

Light Requirement

Sun, Part Shade

Water Requirement

Medium

Native Habitat

Woodland, Wetland or Riparian

Bloom and Attraction

Bloom Color

Red, Purple

Bloom Season

Summer, Fall

Seasonal Interest

Nectar

Wildlife Benefit

Hummingbirds

Maintenance

Once thought to be extinct, Big Red Sage was rediscovered in the 1980s and has become an established garden plant in Texas. Endemic to the Edwards Plateau, although not common in the wild, but easily grown from seed. Prefers average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in morning sun and afternoon shade. Plants may repeat bloom from summer to fall, but need regular moisture to encourage this. Plant rosettes are evergreen to semi-evergreen in southern locations. Propagation: Seed. Clump division.

Comments

Blooms June-October. Leaves form a rosette in the winter from which numerous flowering stalks grow in the summer. Its glossy lance-shaped leaves have a pleasant smell similar to lemon-lime. Tube-shaped, 2-lipped, dark rose-red to burgundy-red flowers bloom in spikes at the ends of the stiff stems. Fruit is a capsule. Attracts hummingbirds.
Previous Scientific Name(s): Synonym/s: Salvia pentstemonoides

References

1) Griffith, Bryce, Omernick & Rodgers (2007). Ecoregions of Texas. 2) Miller, George O., Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas 2nd Ed., 2013, pg 48. 3) https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=SAPE15. 4) http://bonap.net/TDC/Image/Map?taxonType=Species&taxonId=13681&locationType=County&mapType=Normal. 5) https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=504997#null, 6) Native and Adapted Landscape Plants, City of Austin and Texas A&M, 2014., 7) https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=281515&isprofile=0&, 8) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvia_pentstemonoides
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About the Region

New Braunfels, the location of our Fall 2024 Symposium, straddles both the Edwards Plateau Ecoregion and the Blackland Prairie ecoregion. Interstate 35 divides the city of New Braunfels; its path through the city closely parallels the boundary of these two ecoregions, with the Edwards Plateau on the west side and the Blackland Prairies region to the east. The Edwards Plateau area is also called the Hill Country; however, this general term covers a much larger area extending farther north. Spring-fed creeks are found throughout the region; deep limestone canyons, rivers, and lakes (reservoirs) are common. Ashe juniper is perhaps the most common woody species found throughout the region. Additional woody species include various species of oak, with live oak (Quercus fusiformis) being the most common. Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) and bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) border waterways. This area is well known for its spring wildflower displays, though they may be viewed in spring, late summer, and fall, as well. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, average annual rainfall in the Edwards Plateau ranges from 15 to 34 inches.

The Blackland Prairie extends from the Red River south to San Antonio, bordered on the west by the Edwards Plateau and the Cross Timbers, and on the east by the Post Oak Savannah. Annual rainfall averages 30 to 40 inches, with higher averages to the east. This region is dominated by prairie species. The most common grass species include little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) in the uplands and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) in the riparian areas and drainages. Common herbaceous flowering plants include salvias, penstemons, and silphiums. This area has suffered greatly from overgrazing and agricultural use. Few intact areas remain, though many of the plants can be found along county roadsides throughout the region.

Our four host chapters (New Braunfels, Lindheimer, Guadalupe, and the Hill Country chapters) are located in one or both of the ecoregions above. However, the eastern portion of Guadalupe County also falls within the Post Oak Savanna ecoregion. Annual rainfall averages 35 to 45 inches, with higher averages to the east. A wide variety of hardwood trees are found, including several species of oaks, elms, and in the Bastrop area, loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). Grasses and forbs dominate in the open savannas, with most common grass being little bluestem. Ranching, agriculture, and fire suppression have allowed woody species to encroach on the once-open savannas.

Source: Wildflowers of Texas by Michael Eason