Lyreleaf Sage

Scientific Name(s): Salvia lyrata
Abundance: plentiful
What: leaves
How: raw or cooked when young, tea after flowers form.
Where: full sun to partial shade, borders and light woods
When: winter, spring
Nutritional Value: low

Medicinal Summary:
Leaves - laxative; cough suppressant; weak antibiotic (tisane)
Root - wound healer (poultice, infused oil, salve)

Leaf Arrangement: The leaves are arranged in a rosette at the base of the plant, with some leaves also present on the stem in an opposite-alternating arrangement.

Leaf Shape: The leaves are ovate to lanceolate, often with a heart-shaped base. The basal leaves are typically larger, ranging from 3 to 6 inches in length and 1 to 3 inches in width, while the stem leaves are smaller.

Leaf Venation: The leaves exhibit pinnate venation, with a prominent central vein and multiple side veins.

Leaf Margin: The leaf margins are typically serrated or toothed, and can be somewhat wavy.

Leaf Color: The leaves are primarily green, though they can have purple highlights or veining, especially in the basal rosette.

Flower Structure: The flowers are arranged in whorls on a spike-like inflorescence, extending from the upper part of the stem. Each flower is tubular and measures about 0.5 to 1 inch in length.

Flower Color: The flowers are typically blue to violet, though they can occasionally be white or pink.

Fruit: The plant produces a small nutlet as its fruit.

Seed: The seeds are small, brown, and enclosed within the nutlet.

Stem: The stem is erect, square in cross-section (a characteristic of many members of the mint family), and can grow up to 1 to 2 feet tall. The single stalk produces two side branches as it matures.

Hairs: The stem and leaves are covered in fine hairs, giving these plants a fuzzy texture.

Height: Salvia lyrata typically reaches a height of 1 to 2 feet.

When in flower, lyreleaf sage makes clusters of light-purple flowers along roadsides.
Lyreleaf Sage

Young plant (eat at this stage). Note the purple veins and leaf stems.


Close-up of leaf. Note the hairs.

Mature lyreleaf sage with flower stalk (less tasty at this stage).

Lyreleaf Sage flower stalks produces two side branches.

Close-up of lyreleaf sage flowers.
Lyreleaf Sage Flowers IGFB16

Stem after dropping flowers.
Lyreleaf Sage Stem IGFB23

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.

Lyreleaf sages quickly cover the ground wherever they show up giving rise to it's other common name, "Cancer Weed". As winter turns to spring these purplish plants send up flower stalks which split into three stems, each with multiple long, thin, small light violet/purple flowers. One quickly learns to spot beds of lyreleaf sage by the large beds of these flowers. Being in the mint family, the flower stem is square. Both the stem and leaves are hairy. The veins will be purple and under the right conditions the entire leaf may be purple. I thought the amount of purple was due to sunlight but now I'm thinking its more a factor of watering.

Young lyreleaf sages have a weak, somewhat minty flavor when young. It is good in salads or in cooked dishes where a bit of mint flavor is wanted. After it flowers the dried plant can be used to make a weak mint tea. Like all mints, it has a square stem and can be very invasive.

The youngest leaves are used raw in salads but as the plant matures I find the leaf texture is improved by cooking.

Native Americans were the first to notice how this plant spreads across an area like a cancer and following their belief that "like cures like" they thought it could be used to treat cancer. Western science has not put much effort into determining if it does have any special anti-cancer properties but it is generally believed to not fight cancer.

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