Fine Art

Salvia involucrata, Photo: Michael Lahanas

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: Core eudicots
Cladus: Asterids
Cladus: Lamiids
Ordo: Lamiales

Familia: Lamiaceae
Subfamilia: Nepetoideae
Tribus: Mentheae
Subtribus: Salviinae
Genus: Salvia
Subgenus: S. subg. Calosphace
Sectio: S. sect. Holwaya
Species: Salvia involucrata

Salvia involucrata Cav., Cav., Icon. 2: 3 (1793).

Salvia laevigata Kunth in F.W.H.von Humboldt, A.J.A.Bonpland & C.S.Kunth, Nov. Gen. Sp. 2: t. 147 (1818).
Belospis laevigata (Kunth) Raf., Fl. Tellur. 3: 91 (1837).
Salvia bethellii Van Geert, Nursery Cat. (Auguste Van Geert) 78: 18 (1879).
Salvia palafoxiana Sessé & Moc., Pl. Nov. Hisp.: 8 (1887).
Salvia ventricosa Sessé & Moc., Fl. Mexic.: 8 (1892).

Native distribution areas:

Northern America
Mexico Central, Mexico Northeast.
Central America

References: Brummitt, R.K. 2001. TDWG – World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions, 2nd Edition
Primary references

Cavanilles, A.J. 1793. Icones et descriptiones plantarum, quae aut sponte in Hispania crescunt, aut in hortis hospitantur. Vol. II. iv + 83 pp., tab. 101–200. Ex Regia Typographia, Matriti [Madrid]. Biblioteca Digital Reference page. : 2: 3

Additional references

Villaseñor, J.L. 2016. Checklist of the native vascular plants of Mexico. Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad 87: 559–902. DOI: 10.1016/j.rmb.2016.06.017 Online PDF Reference page.
Paton, A.J., Mwanyambo, M., Govaerts, R.H., Smitha, K., Suddee, S., Phillipson, P.B., Wilson, T.C., Forster, P.I. & Culham, A. 2019. Nomenclatural changes in Coleus and Plectranthus (Lamiaceae): a tale of more than two genera. PhytoKeys 129: 1–158. DOI: 10.3897/phytokeys.129.34988 Open access Reference page.


Govaerts, R. et al. 2021. Salvia involucrata in World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published online. Accessed: 2021 January 13. Reference page.
International Plant Names Index. 2021. Salvia involucrata. Published online. Accessed: 13 January 2021.

Vernacular names
español: Rosa Mexicana

Salvia involucrata, the roseleaf sage, is a species of flowering plant in the sage family Lamiaceae.[1] This herbaceous perennial is native to the Mexican states of Puebla, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz, growing in shady places such as the edge of forests. Its specific epithet involucrata refers to the prominent flower bracts, which are large and colorful.[2]


Salvia involucrata grows five feet or taller before it starts blooming in late summer. The plant's flowers and bracts are a reddish, beetroot color. The bracts occur in pairs which envelop three flowers each, falling away as the flowers expand. The plant's leaves are small, flat mid-green, slightly cordate-shaped. Unusually, the leaves' petioles and veins share the flowers' beetroot-reddish hue.[2] Genetically, the species has eleven (11) tetraploidal chromosomes.[3]

Salvia involucrata[4] and its cultivars 'Bethellii'[5] and 'Boutin'[6] have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[7] 'Bethellii' was introduced in 1881 for its compact habit and large ovoid leaves. Another cultivar, common in France and Britain, is 'Deschamsiana', which was chosen in 1869 for the bright rose color of its inflated flowers. Cultivars that have found popularity in the U.S. include 'Hidalgo', 'El Butano', and 'El Cielo'—each named after the place in Mexico where it was collected.[2]

Salvia involucrata breeds freely with other Salvia species, resulting in many hybrids at University of California Botanical Garden that show hybrid vigor. Some of these hybrid plants are known to grow up to six feet high, with a longer blooming period. 'Mulberry Jam', a smaller hybrid with upright growth, stronger stems, and continuous blooming from summer to frost was introduced in 1995 by Betsy Clebsch.[2]

As a garden plant, it prefers good drainage, half to three-quarter a day of sun, humus enriched soil, and deep watering once a week. Propagation is by division or cuttings, which can be rooted in late summer or early autumn. The plant will grow back from the ground after light freezes. In early spring, it should be pruned back to active nodes a few inches from the crown.[2]
In medicine

Historically, S. involucrata along with several other members of its genus have been used as a memory-enhancer in traditional herbal medicine. Scientific studies seeking to verify this have shown that extracts of S. involucrata (along with other Salvia species) contained significant amounts of cerebral cortex-relevant compounds, including with those with binding affinity to acetylcholine receptors.[8] The species has also been used at least once in the past as an indicator of carbon dioxide metabolism. In a 1919 study, Salvia involucrata was used to determine the effects of ether on the rate of CO2 respiration on dying cells. The study found that petals of S. involucrata immersed in ether consumed more oxygen as the cells expired.[9]

"Salvia involucrata". International Plant Names Index (IPNI). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 29 January 2009.
Clebsch, Betsy; Barner, Carol D. (2003). The New Book of Salvias. Timber Press. pp. 155–158. ISBN 978-0-88192-560-9.
Alberto, Cecilia M.; Sanso, A. Mariel; Xifreda, Cecilia C. (2003-03-28). "Chromosomal studies in species of Salvia (Lamiaceae) from Argentina". Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. London, UK: The Linnean Society of London. 141 (4): 483–490. doi:10.1046/j.1095-8339.2003.t01-1-00178.x.
"RHS Plant Selector - Salvia involucrata". Retrieved 17 February 2021.
"RHS Plant Selector - Salvia involucrata 'Bethellii'". Retrieved 17 February 2021.
"RHS Plant Selector - Salvia involucrata 'Boutin'". Retrieved 17 February 2021.
"AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 94. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
Wake, George; Court, Jennifer; Pickering, Anne; Lewis, Rhiannon; Wilkins, Richard; Perry, Elaine (February 2000). "CNS acetylcholine receptor activity in European medicinal plants traditionally used to improve failing memory". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Ireland: Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. 69 (2): 105–114. doi:10.1016/S0378-8741(99)00113-0. PMID 10687867.
Irwin, Marian (1919-03-20). "Increased production of carbon dioxide accompanied by decrease of acidity". The Journal of General Physiology. 1 (4): 399–403. doi:10.1085/jgp.1.4.399. PMC 2140318. PMID 19871754.

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