Texas sage is the Lone Star State’s native shrub. The silvery bush often blends into the Texas landscape, except when it bursts into bloom with bright purple flowers for just a few days at a time.
State folklore holds that Texas sage – also called the “barometer bush” – can predict rain. The truth is a little more complicated than that.
To get to the bottom of this local legend, the Standard was joined by Elisabeth Jimenez, who wrote about Texas sage for Texas Monthly. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: What sparked your interest in Texas sage?
Elisabeth Jimenez: Obviously, Texas is home to tons of different native plant species, but this one’s particularly interesting because people say that if it blooms, that means it’s going to predict rain. I wanted to find a little bit more about that.
How did Texas sage come to be known for predicting weather in the first place?
When Texas sage is not blooming, it’s a pretty unassuming plant. It’s just very gray, with green leaves. But when there’s high humidity or low atmospheric pressure, it has these very vibrant purple flowers.
I think that’s what draws interest into the plant – that contrast. And again, people say it predicts rain. I think that sort of folklore kind of gets people interested in the plant.
You write that there’s no scientific studies about the relationship between rainfall and Texas sage’s blooming patterns. What do experts think about the potential triggers for blooms?
It is true that the science isn’t definitive. There aren’t any official research studies on this, but what experts think is that it’s actually just high humidity or low atmospheric pressure – which is correlated with rain, but it doesn’t guarantee rain.
So, I think that’s why some people say it’s going to predict the rain. It can bloom ahead of rainfall, but more often than not it’s usually after. So, it’s more so the weather conditions.
Let’s talk a little bit about Texas sage. What makes it distinct from other plants, and why does it seem to thrive in Texas?
It is native to Texas and it’s actually a desert plant, so it’s very resistant to the heat and drought. But it also can stand colder temperatures, because it’s an evergreen.
So, in the winter, when everything else is pretty much dry and dead, it’s a nice plant to have because of the lush green and purple colors that it has.
In fact, some species of Texas wildlife depend on Texas sage for survival, right?
It is a native shrub, so a lot of different wildlife have their habitat there, like different birds and things like that. So, it is a good plant for the wildlife as well.
For Texas gardeners who are thinking about perhaps planting sage, what are some of the rules? Is there a better season? Is there a better place to plant sage? Do people plant it as an ornamental, or what exactly?
Like I said, it is an evergreen plant. Texas sage can last through all four seasons because it is a desert plant.
It’s probably better to plant it in the spring and in the summer. Also, it doesn’t really like the shade. So, sunlit places are good. Try not to overwater it – that’s also a good rule of thumb.