Artemisia tridentata (Big Sagebrush)

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Big sagebrush or Great Basin sagebrush is an evergreen shrub, 1 1/2-9 ft. tall, with a gnarled spread somewhat less than its height. It may have a short trunk or be branched from the base. Small, velvety, silvery leaves have a sweet, pungent aroma and, en masse, give a bluish-gray effect.

Big Sagebrush is the dominant shrub over vast areas of the Great Basin region. Several subspecies have been identified, all more or less similar to the typical form. Sagebrush is a valuable forage plant for wildlife, particularly during the winter. It is browsed by deer, moose, elk, antelope, and bighorn sheep, especially in late winter and spring. Sage grouse also feed heavily on sagebrush, which also provides nesting sites for a variety of songbirds. Even more nutritious than alfalfa, this shrub consists of 16 percent proteins, 15 percent fats, and 47 percent carbohydrates. Humans have used the plant primarily as firewood—the volatile oils responsible for its pungent aroma are so flammable that they can cause even green plants to burn.