Phlomis russeliana (Turkish sage)
Turkish sage is a stately plant, bearing whorls of hooded pale yellow flowers in summer and autumn.
About this species
Turkish sage is an attractive, long-flowering perennial. Within the horticultural trade it is sometimes known by the (misapplied) name Phlomis viscosa, because of its sticky leaves. The well-known gardener William Robinson (1838-1935) described the genus Phlomis as: ‘A group of old-fashioned shrubs and perennial plants’, and P. viscosa itself as: ‘A rather clammy plant...with...numerous bright yellow flowers of fine effect’. Dr John Sims, who succeeded William Curtis as editor of Curtis’s Botanical Magazine from 1799 to 1827, formally named this plant (as Phlomis lunariifolia var. russeliana, in 1825), but he confused it with a similar species (P. pungens Willd.) collected in Syria and illustrated by G.D. Ehret in Alexander Russell’s The Natural History of Aleppo (1786).
Geography & Distribution
Restricted to Turkey, where it occurs mainly in the north, from Istanbul, east along the Black Sea coast to Rize, and south to Kutahya. It has been found at up to 1,700 m above sea level.
Turkish sage is a herbaceous perennial, growing to about 90 cm tall, spreading above and below ground, with softly wrinkled, ovate leaves, grey-green on the upper side, whitish and densely hairy beneath. The hooded, yellow flowers appear from May to September, and are carried in whorls at intervals up the stout flowering stem. The flowers are about 3 cm long and are bee-pollinated. The fruit is a nutlet.
Illustration from Curtis's Botanical Magazine
Hand-coloured engraving of Phlomis russeliana (as P. lunariifolia var. russeliana) by J. Curtis, taken from Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (1825).
Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (Editor: Martyn Rix) provides an international forum of particular interest to botanists and horticulturists, plant ecologists and those with a special interest in botanical illustration.
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Turkish sage is cultivated as an ornamental, and holds the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. It is a good ground cover species, suppressing weeds. Recent laboratory research has been carried out to investigate the antibacterial activity of its essential oils, which show potential for use in the food industry.
Turkish sage is a hardy species of Phlomis, which can be grown in any good, well-drained soil, in sun or partial shade. It has a long flowering-period, stretching from late spring to early autumn. It does well in sunny borders in British gardens, and is drought tolerant when established. Propagation can be carried out by division of the clumps.
This species at Kew
Pressed and dried specimens of other species of Phlomis are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world, by appointment. The details of some of these can be seen on-line in the Herbarium Catalogue.
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