Salvia lyrata (lyre-leaf sage, lyreleaf sage, wild sage, cancerweed), is a herbaceous perennial in the family Lamiaceae that is native to the United States, from Connecticut west to Missouri, and in the south from Florida west to Texas.[1] It was described and named by Carl Linnaeus in 1753.[2]

Salvia lyrata
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Salvia
S. lyrata
Binomial name
Salvia lyrata



Salvia lyrata forms a basal rosette of leaves that are up to 8 inches (20 cm) long, broadening toward the tip. The leaves have irregular margins and are typically pinnately lobed or cut, looking somewhat like a lyre. The center vein is sometimes dark wine-purple. A square-shaped hairy stem up to 2 feet (0.61 m) long grows from the rosette, with uneven whorls of two-lipped lavender to blue flowers. Flowering is heaviest between April and June, though sparse flowering can happen throughout the year. The leaves were once thought to be an external cure for cancer, thus one of the common names "Cancerweed".[3] Salvia lyrata grows in full sun or light to medium shade, with native stands found on roadsides, fields, and open woodlands.[4]

Cultivation and uses


Salvia lyrata is sometimes grown in gardens for its attractive foliage and flowers, though it can prolifically seed, easily spreading into lawns. Its ability to thrive despite being mowed and walked on, however, mean it can be used as a turf grass alternative that is attractive to bees.[5] Several cultivars have been developed with purple leaves. 'Burgundy Bliss' and 'Purple Knockout' are two cultivars with burgundy leaves that are deeper in color than the species.[1][6] Native Americans used the root as a salve for sores, and used the whole plant as a tea for colds and coughs.[7][8]



  1. ^ a b Armitage, Allan M. (2006). Armitage's Native Plants for North American Gardens. Timber Press. pp. 335–336. ISBN 978-0-88192-760-3.
  2. ^ "Salvia lyrata". IPNI Database. International Plant Names Index. 2005. Retrieved 2009-03-12.
  3. ^ Duever, Linda Conway. "Salvia lyrata". Floridata. Retrieved 2009-03-11.
  4. ^ "Lyreleaf Sage" (PDF). USDA Plant Fact Sheet. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2009-03-12.
  5. ^ "Salvia lyrata".
  6. ^ Anisko, Tomasz (2008). When Perennials Bloom. Timber Press. p. 402. ISBN 978-0-88192-887-7.
  7. ^ Choukas-Bradley, Melanie; Brown, Tina Thieme (2004). An Illustrated Guide to Eastern Woodland Wildflowers and Trees. University of Virginia Press. pp. 210–211. ISBN 978-0-8139-2251-5.
  8. ^ Moerman, Daniel E. (1998). Native American Ethnobotany. 9780881924534. p. 510. ISBN 9780881924534.