Salvia clevelandii in California
Here's one that's familiar to many of you. Salvia clevelandii (a.k.a. Cleveland sage, blue sage, musk sage, fragrant sage, chaparral sage, perhaps others) is available in Calif. nurseries both as straight species (or selections such as "Winnifred Gilman") and as hybrids, most often with S. leucophylla. The hybrids are much more popular in the trade than the straight species, and some nurseries sell plants that are alleged to be straight species, but which are in fact hybrids. Cuttings get passed from nursery to nursery, and some nursery owners have never seen wild plants and don't know that they are selling hybrids. I know this, because I recently talked to the owner of a small native-plant nursery, and he said the original cutting of the alleged Cleveland sage that I was examining came from one of the most-prestigious and best-known native plant nurseries, yet it was clear to me that the plant was a hybrid.
Salvia clevelandii occurs on the coastal side of the mountains from northern San Diego Co., Calif., south into northwestern Baja Calif., Mexico. A couple of small populations are alleged to occur in southwestern Riverside Co., just north of the county line, but they have been inaccessible to me so far. Most populations are below about 4000 ft. elev., but there's a very nice population at Inaja Memorial Park in San Diego Co. that must be pretty close to that elevation. S. clevelandii occurs in coastal sage scrub and chaparral plant associations. S. clevelandii's distribution is spotty within its range, and it is absent from many places that would appear to be suitable.
As with most Calif. sages, S. clevelandii is adapted to a Mediterranean climate with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. Summer nights remain below 60F in most parts of its natural range. Most areas average between 10 and 25 inches per year, most of falling from late November through early April, with great year-to-year variability. In the highest parts of its range, such as the Inaja population mentioned previously, S. clevelandii experiences occasional winter snow. However, there are also specimens near the ocean that virtually never see snow and only occasional light winter frost.
Salvia clevelandii was described by Asa Gray in 1874 and named for Daniel Cleveland, collector of the type specimens. Cleveland was a business man and amateur naturalist who lived in San Diego in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. S. clevelandii was not named for President Grover Cleveland or for Cleveland National Forest.
I took these photos on 26 May 2008 at Hellhole Canyon Open Space Preserve, Valley Center, San Diego Co., Calif. Representative coordinates are 33.21705 N, 116.93391 W, 2041 ft. elev. +- 26 ft.
The Hellhole Canyon population burned in a devestating fire in Oct 2003. Fire is part of the natural cycle in this plant community, and, provided another fire doesn't occur very soon, it will completely recover. Alas, the hills and area around the rural community in the background of one of the photos burned a second time in Oct 2007, and they are threatened with what's called "type conversion," whereby the scrub and chaparral plants can't come back and are replaced by non-native grasses, which are an even greater fire hazard.
One photo shows the interior of a plant. It might be hard for you to see, but I can see clearly that the plant is now getting its summer leaves, which are smaller and grayer than its cool-season leaves.
The last photo shows the soil at this site. You can see that it is mainly gravel (decomposed granite) with chunks of rock. I've seen this species growing in what amounts to shattered rock, not "soil" as one usually understands the term.