another member of the interesting sage family, this creeping sage
with its aromatic leaves and abundance of flowers in summer, is
a perennial worth growing in the garden and finding in the veld.
easy and fast-growing herb, Salvia repens has rhizomes which
spread to form small clumps of soft, hairy stems about 400 mm tall.
Simple or branched, the stems are square ( typical of Salvia)
and the leaves are formed opposite each other along the stem.
The leaves of S. repens are rough and hairy, with the veins
more prominent on the bottom; the margins toothed and irregular
and the leaves more crowded and bigger (30-100 x 8-45 mm) at the
base of the stems.
The flowers are formed in clusters of 6-8. Formed close to the
stem, the clusters of flowers are spaced closer together the nearer
to the tip they are.The
small, two-lipped flowers (16-24 mm in length) vary in colour from
pure white to pale blue, mauve and purple. The main flowering season
is during the summer from about October to March. Bees are the main
pollinators. The seeds are small nutlets formed within the protection
of the calyx.
Salvia repens is widespread throughout the summer rainfall,
eastern part of South Africa. It is most commonly found in the grasslands
of the highveld.
The genus name Salvia is derived from the Latin word salvere,
which means to heal. The species name repens means creeping.
There are more than 900 species of Salvia widely distributed
throughout the temperate and tropical regions of the northern and
In South Africa there are 27 indigenous species of Salvia,
and four species from Europe and America that have naturalized.
Traditionally the leaves have been added to the bath for treating
sores, and a decoction of the root has been used for both humans
and cattle for treating stomachache and diarrhoea. Smoke from burning
the plant can be used as a fumigant.
Growing Salvia repens
At Kirstenbosch, Salvia repens is much used as a perennial
for summer colour in the garden. New plants are easy to propagate
from seed, cuttings or division of the creeping rootstock or rhizomes.
As part of the summer display, new plants are planted out at the
end of spring, combined with
Anchusa capensis ( blue forget-me-not), Lasiospermum
bipinnatum ( white wild chamomile), Lobelia
valida ( blue galjoenblom) and white
repens also grows well in pots and forms a lovely groundcover
on the edge of paths and beds with its bright green foliage and
spikes of white flowers in summer. As with many fast-growing herbs,
plants get untidy after 2-3 years and need to be pruned back hard
or lifted and replanted. Tolerant of frost, S. repens requires
full sun and good drainage. It will survive with little water but
responds with lush growth to regular water especially in summer,
and well-composted soil. With its hairy and aromatic leaves the
plants do not have any major pest and no extra feeding other than
compost is necessary for strong, healthy growth.
- Leistner, O.A. ( ed.). 2000. Seed plants of southern Africa:
families and genera. Strelitzia 10. National Botanical
- Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to wild flowers of Kwazulu-Natal
and the eastern region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
- Van Jaarsveld, E. J. 2002. South African sages. Veld &
Flora 88: 102-104.
- Van Wyk, Braam & Malan, S. 1988. Field guide to the wild
flowers of the Witwatersrand and Pretoria region. Struik,
- Watt, J.M. & Breyer-Brandwijk, M.G. 1962. Medicinal and
poisonous plants of southern and eastern Africa. Livingstone,
Leisl van der Walt
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden