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Nevada State Flower

I am writing to tell you about the sagebrush. That is a lame introduction, I know, but I am not very good at introductions and find the flower fascinating. The sagebrush is the Nevada state flower which makes sense since sagebrush grows in arid climates, and Nevada has quite a bit of desert. The distinct odor of sagebrush, which is close to the smell of sage, is thought to deter animals from grazing on the plant. I love when plants find a way like that to protect themselves from death by eating. I find the natural protection mechanisms of plants and animals to be quite fascinating. Besides protecting itself from those animals that would eat it, the odor of the sage protects the animals it deters. The Nevada state flower cannot be eaten in large amounts by ruminants, because there are toxic oils in the plant which destroy the symbiotic bacteria in herbivores. This affects cattle more than it affects any other animal. Most animals can eat the plant in moderate amounts, but large amounts could kill the animals. Cows who eat too much of this plant could freeze to death during the winter as they rely on the heat from digestion to keep them alive throughout the cold winter months. I like a plant that will protect itself and protect animals from its dangerous qualities. That is quite unlike the Venus fly trap, which lures in animals to kill them. The Nevada state flower tries to keep animals away to protect the plant and the animals that would eat the plant.

The natural protection in the sagebrush is one of my favorite facts about the plant. My very favorite fact, however, has to do with the history of its use with the Native Americans. Sagebrush, the Nevada state flower, when eaten or made into a tea can cause internal blood clotting. This makes the plant sound very dangerous, but the Native Americans used this to their advantage. They would eat the plant to cause blood clotting when they had internal bleeding from accidents or childbirth. I guess medicine is often that way, dangerous if taken unnecessarily but very productive in times of need. The plant is toxic if digested, but the toxic symptoms will go away in a day or two. The plant seems to be something that would only be used when quite necessary as a human would get negative side effects when taken. You would only want to take the drug if you needed to. Who wants to have those affects if they do not need to?

I suppose that Nevada chose to have sagebrush as the Nevada state flower because of the profusion of sagebrush in the area. I do not really know, but the conditions in which sagebrush grows seem to match the conditions of Nevada when it comes to climate and geography. The flowers are not fire tolerant as some of the plants in the area are (able to grow from their roots after a fire). Instead, sagebrush has to be seed blown from another area to grow again after a fire. Sagebrush may be becoming more scarce, though, now as other, more fire tolerant plants take over the sagebrush habitat.


 
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