As responsible plant wild crafters we are working to conserve plants considered "at risk" by taking steps to one day become self sustaining. This includes white sage. White sage grows in a very small part of the country including only parts of Southern California and Northern Baja California. Its small range and its overuse by many irresponsible people has caused this plant to become not endangered yet, but on the "to be watched" list by the United Plant Savers. When we started out as a tiny company, we were aware of the ramifications of over harvesting sage but we were only harvesting very, very small amounts. While we still only harvest small amounts (seriously like miniscule), we have to become more aware since as we grow, our dependence on sage increases as well. It is our long term goal to have our own sage farm, and we are in the very beginning stages of making this happen! (I will have another post soon including our current list of sage species we are growing and our progress)
It is difficult to find a lot of information on white sage online, especially with such a niche topic like how to process its seeds. Last year we collected the blooms off of a few sage plants during the summer in hopes of gathering the seeds. We let them dry and since its time to start our seedlings for our other plants, we decided to try and figure out how to get the seeds! I was very lucky to find a book through the link program at the library (i cannot sing enough praises of the public library in CA) called “Processing Seeds of California Native Plants for Conservation, Storage and Restoration”. It is an entire binder full of information on how and where on the plant to get the seeds from a huge list of native CA plants. There were several sage species included on that list, with white sage being one of them. While it wasn't too specific on where to find them we had to do a little bit of our own exploration, and this is what we discovered!….
DRIED SAGE FLOWERS
LARGE BAKING SHEET (WITH EDGES)
GLASSINE BAG, SMALL ENVELOPE
Collect your flower material during early summer before sage flowers. The sage plant grows long, tall stalks with flowers and you should collect them while the buds remain closed. Place them on a drying rack somewhere cool and dry. After the stalks are totally dry we can begin to process the seeds.
To begin to process the seeds, lay out a large baking sheet (one with edges, not a flat one). Better yet if you have the supplies, like seed screens use those. Since this was our first experience collecting our own sage seeds, we used the baking sheet. Have a small bowl ready as well as a small envelope, glassine bag etc to hold your seeds.
During the drying process many seeds will drop out of the bud. So some of the buds will be empty. Don't be discouraged, there will still be lots of seeds. When you begin to inspect your sage you will notice a lot of the buds are open, some appear empty and some appear to have a light brown seed in it. The ones with the apparent seed are not actual seeds, it looks as if it was just about to flower and when you touch it, it will turn to dust. Look for the largest buds that are open. Gently rub them between your fingers starting at the base. Turn them upside down over your hand or over the bowl and continue to rub. 1-4 seeds should fall right out. Not all buds will have seeds but keep going there are hundreds of buds to inspect. The smaller, more tightly closed ones tend to not have very many seeds at all but a few will. I would focus on the larger ones as they hold more seeds. Your fingers will soon be coated with resin as sage is similar to another plant with 'bud like' flowers, which are full of sticky trichomes on the outside of the flower buds. So unless you want to spend 10 minutes scrubbing your fingers I would suggest wearing gloves.
Sage is notorious for being difficult to grow from seed or to clone, so do a little research and see how you can make the process easier.