If Chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum) is the defining plant of chaparral, then California Sagebrush (Artemisia californica) is its counterpart for coastal sage scrub — the boundaries between the two are often fluid, anyway. :)
Artemisia californica is quite an interesting plant — after winter rains, the first thing to appear on the plant might sometimes be the tiny flowers, yellow to purple, even before new leaves start to grow.
It is also a very pleasant fragrance in the sage scrub plant community. I often can’t resist running my hand over its twigs and the soft, almost needle-like leaves, to catch a bit of that floral yet herbal, slightly sweet and perhaps woodruff-like scent. But it smells good even when it’s dry, in summer: as morning dew evaporates from the dry plants, it releases hints of its fragrance into the morning air.
There are a number of Artemisia species growing in San Diego County. One of the most interesting siblings of Artemisia californica is Artemisia palmeri, the rare Palmer’s or San Diego Sagewort, which has leaves that look like a “supersized” version of Artemisia californica. :)
Here are some photos that show the plant in it’s typical appearance(s).
Artemisia is named for either the Greek hunting goddess of Artemis, or for Artemisia, Queen of Anatolia (don’t ask me why!). The epithet californica is kinda obvious and with regards to the plant’s distribution, includes Baja California in Mexico.
- CalFlora taxon report for Artemisia californica
- Jepson eFlora taxon page for Artemisia californica
- Wikipedia page for Artemisia californica
Get a photo of a nice big plant in solitary placement. :)