Sidewalk Nature: Hummingbird weeds

lyre-leaf sage (Salvia lyrata)

Lyre-leaf sage. Isn’t it a pretty name? And a pretty flower? But this is another of those “weeds” people poison and mow and pluck out of precious lawn grass. Lyre-leaf sage is native, it spreads by seed, it can make a lovely groundcover (a good native alternative to Ajuga / Bugle), and I just this minute learned it is an excellent nectar plant for hummingbirds.

Around here, I’ve only seen it in down one trash alley, in one rental property (who had not mown till this week), and—whacked short—in one friend’s lawn. Oh, and in my own yard, because I’d stolen a basal rosette last year (from a doomed lawn) and forgotten where I put it. Turns out, I tucked it into the garden bed, where it beefed up quite tall in the rich soil. I’ve transferred a few babies to the yard where I hope they will spread underneath the redbud and by next year, invite hummers down low where I can watch.

Here’s where I learned about the hummingbird connection: Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener, has a blog of the same name. Lyre-leaf sage is one of her Ten Favorite Plants for Hummingbirds.  And here’s where I found that: in her post on whether To Feed or Not to Feed sugar water to hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds rely on insects for protein, and when we poison invertebrates we take food away from everyone, including the cutest birds on the planet. I am hoping people might be more likely to forego chemicals if they know hummingbirds need a square meal?



•’s entry for lyreleaf sage / Salvia lyrata.
• Vanderbilt Bioimages photos for lyreleaf identification.
(I’m spelling it two ways so search engines can catch one or the other…)
• And seeds from Prairie Moon Nursery.