Pitcher Sage

Pitcher Sage © DSchiel

Lepechinia calycina

Description (Jepson, PlantID.net)

    • Eudicotyledon
      • Eudicots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
    • Mint Family (Lamiaceae)
    • Evergreen shrub
    • Stems square in cross-section
      • The sides bulge a bit, making this trait of the Mint family harder to discern
    • Bark, stems, and leaves with long hairs
    • Leaves
      • Opposite (2 leaves at each junction with stem) and simple (not divided into leaflets)
      • Lance-shaped to oval, with toothed margins and a rough upper surface
      • Hairy and sticky
      • Strongly aromatic
    • Flowers
      • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) an open raceme (unbranched stem with stalked flowers opening from the bottom up)
      • Large, bilaterally-symmetrical, open trumpets
      • 5-fused petals, white to light lavender, rolled back at the tips
        • Bottom petal longer and larger than the 4 smaller, upper fused petals
      • Sepals (usually green, outer flower parts) 5-lobed, fused, and inflated
      • Ovary superior (above the attachment of other flower parts)
    • Fruit a set of 4 single-seeded nutlets (small dry fruits that do not split open, derived from a multi-chambered ovary)
    • Height to 7 ft.
    Flowers © KKorbholz


      • Native and endemic (limited) to California
        • Grows in chaparral and foothill woodlands
        • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
      • Grows at elevations between 490 and 2,900 ft.

      Uses (Picking or removing any natural material from public land is illegal)

        • Attractive to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds
        • Used by Native people for headaches and fever; leaves steeped as a tea for urinary infections
        • Plants in the genus Lepechinia are known for their antioxident properties and are commonly used in folk medicine across South America and Central America (Parejo 2004)

        Name Derivation

          • Lepechinia (leh-pe-CHIN-e-a) – named after Ivan Ivanovich Lepechin (1737-1802), a Russian botanist, physician, and explorer; director of the Saint Petersburg Botanical Garden
          • calycina (ca-le-SIN-a) – from the Greek kalyx, “cup or covering,” referring to the calyx, (collective term for sepals), which is prominent and persistent in this species
          • Pitcher sage – from the inflated pitcher-like shape of the fused, persistent sepals; or from the pitcher-like shape of the flowers, with the longer bottom petal creating a spout
            • This name is also used for a number of species in the Salvia genus of the Mint family


            • The sepal cup (calyx) persists long after the flower drops and turns from green to reddish purple, enclosing the fruit; by winter, the plant appears to be decorated with brown lanterns
            • Aromatic leaves deter browsing
            • Recovers quickly after fire or disturbance

            At Edgewood

              • Found in chaparral and open woodlands
              • Flowers April – July

              See General References

              Specific References

                Parejo, I., et al. 2004. Investigation of Lepechinia graveolens for its antioxidant activity and phenolic composition. J Ethnopharmacology. 94(1): 175-184.

                  Wilson, B. 2012. Lepechinia calycina, California Pitcher Plant. Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery.