Wild in the City: California Sagebrush

This past week, Fern and I returned to Mt. Davidson to see how the progression of wildflowers was getting on. I didn’t realize it would be my foraging report for the week, and truly, how could it when all the blooms and their pollinators were like a sensory overload stampede? I felt like the character in Millions of Cats who, after bringing home more kitties than he could care for, asks them to choose the prettiest amongst themselves. And they began to quarrel...

I mean really, how am I supposed to choose?

Forget-me-nots. The essence of this flower is a reminder that we are not alone. All the time, wherever we go, we are surrounded by spirits who are delighted to meet us just where we are. As spring has unfurled this week, I have felt Leo close by my side. I had forgotten, but he loved our wildflower walks too.

Plantain is robust and exuberant right now. A good time to harvest a “fairy bandage” if you have a trailside scratch. Or take a few leaves home to make a skin healing salve.

Red Elderberry. Such a tease…not edible.


Checker Mallow.

California Poppies. 

Hanging out with some Sheep Sorrel.



A cherished Bay Area native…Douglas Iris.


Although enthusiastic at the start, Fern was hit with a pretty severe case of “The Naps”. So we took a nice long break and she told me all about Wild Oat and explained what each part was and then gave some to me to try. (I’ve never talked to her about this particular plant by the way…it was her own interpretation).

It was not until our way back down the mountain, that I passed three surprise clusters of Artemisia californica. California Sagebrush, or as I have always known it…Coastal Sage.


She has been catching my attention on all our excursions lately. Like so many beings in nature, her presence feels palpable as she emerges from dormancy. All of her tips have soft new growth.


I have several pocketfuls of nipped tips in my laundry pile(s) (which reminds me, I need to follow my own guidelines and rescue them so they can dry!), as I have been collecting them wherever I go. I have had a plan percolating just below daily consciousness, brewing in one of the pots on my stove of intuition. I have been musing with the idea of making bioregional plant incense, and then I found this post. I use both white sage and Palo Santo to clear the energy of the room and to “set the stage”, before seeing clients. For quite a while it hasn’t been sitting well with me. Sometimes I forgo it, sometimes I burn Clary Sage from my garden instead. I adored the southwestern Sagebrush I brought back from my grandma’s home in Colorado last summer and yet still…nothing screams spiritual colonialism (or bioregional appropriation) like using someone else’s customs from another land. So I’m excited to enlist the help of this local girl in creating my own rituals.


Sorry for the blown out quality of the pics…it was high noon and the lighting was a blitzkreig. 

If you would like to experience the energetic cleansing properties of this artemisia, pick a few tips the next time you are out (always employing frugality) and let them to dry on a cookie rack when you get home, or tie them into a bundle with a bit of twine. Once dry, ignite the ends and invite the smoke into the corners of your room, or let it waft over your person. If you would like to use it fresh, you could make a strong infusion of the fresh tips, and then add the strained water to your bath. I also found this interesting document on the enthnobotanical uses of California plants, which includes a blurb about Coastal Sage.

On our way back to the car, a fallen tree provided a good half hour of entertainment. We practiced our fake trips and pratfalls, with Mommy doing most of the clowning. Ah, finally I can use that BA in Theatre and physical comedy.


Fern is earning her degree in sunglass thievery and cuteness.



Have a beautiful weekend, and a sweet Easter celebration. Even if Easter’s not your bag, maybe you will get a kick out of “The Hunky Jesus” contest at Dolores Park (thanks for the tip Uncle Shane!). We’ll be heading over for the children’s festivities, but leaving before the  drunk hipsters arrive.

May you find your golden egg!