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Sages with multiple or no varietal names:

Salvia cardinalis (a form of S. fulgens)
Salvia guaranitica from Brazil
Salvia leucantha
Salvia rutilans (a form of S. elegans)

These sages have been sold for many years with no varietal name attached, and now that new varieties of them are being distributed, there is often a great deal of confusion about which plant is associated with a particular name.

Salvia cardinalis (a form of S. fulgens)

Salvia cardinalis, S. fulgens, and S. gesneraeflora foliage

These are three different Salvias from central Mexico with very large red tubular flowers with prominent hoods and lower lips.  There is reason to study their relationships and see if they are really different species.

S. cardinalis was once given species status in section Cardinales, subsection Tubiformes along with S. stolonifera.  The other subsection (Ventricosae) included S. involucrata and S. karwinskii.  It has since been included in S. fulgens (section Fulgentes), which also includes S. microphylla and S. pulchella

S. cardinalis has been in the trade the longest of these three sages.  Currently, all three are available.  The recognition that cardinalis is a form of fulgens has resulted in confusion because of the inability to differentiate between the two forms.  The typical form of S. fulgens is much closer to S. gesneraeflora (section Nobiles) in habit and size.  Cardinalis has much smaller leaves and thinner stems, showy bracts, and blooms much earlier than the other two.  Fulgens is the next to bloom, and has thicker stems but is not quite as large as the form of gesneraeflora called Tequila currently being sold.  I have seen herbarium specimens of intermediate forms with the large leaves of fulgens and the showy involucre and bracts of cardinalis from Mount Tancitaro in Michoacan.

I have been able to cross S. fulgens with S. gesneraeflora `Tequila’ and have plants that appear to be intermediate in size.  The blooms are typical for S. fulgens, and have a green calyx.  An attempt to cross cardinalis with fulgens failed.  I am suspicious of the identity of the plant sold as fulgens, and consider that it is possibly another form of S. gesneraeflora.

There is a further area of confusion.  S. fulgens also includes some variants initially identified as S. orizabensis and S. schaffneri.  The holotype specimen of the latter is located at the Gray Herbarium at Harvard University, and looks identical to the plant generally recognized as S. darcyi and initially identified as S. oresbia.

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Salvia guaranitica from Brazil

Salvia guaranitica (old American form)Salvia guaranitica from Costa Rica

Salvia guaranitica from Brazil is the name I have been using for the form I bought many years ago from Logee’s Greenhouses.  At that time, it was called S. ambigens.  The name was changed with the publication of Hortus III.  It is distinct from all other forms of S. guaranitica except for `Blue Ensign’, which is supposed to be more robust.  I have not observed any differences so far.  Another form called `Sapphire’ also seems indistinguishable.  I am not familiar with the British form `Blue Enigma’.

Other forms include the selection from Costa Rica, which is much taller, has larger leaves, and no tubers.  The identity of this one is not certain.  It may be a tetraploid form or a hybrid.  I doubt if it is derived from native Costa Rican sages. `Argentine Skies’ has light blue flowers and can resist weeds well.  `Black and Blue’ is also a robust species with nearly black calyxes and deeper blue-purple flowers.  The hybrid with S. gesneraeflora `Tequila’ is known as `Purple Majesty’ has larger deep purple flowers and a stature like the Costa Rican form.

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Salvia leucantha

Salvia leucantha MidnightSalvia leucantha Waverly

Salvia leucantha is commonly called Mexican Bush Sage, or even Mexican Sage.  The latter should be reserved for S. mexicana only.  The common form with white flowers and purple calyxes and flower stem has been called Emerald Sage.  There is no all-white form. 

With the introduction of several new forms and hybrids, there will be a need to clearly differentiate the old form from the others.

The other three selections include S. leucantha `Midnight’, which has purple flowers of a slightly redder shade than the purple hairs on the calyxes and floral stems.  The second selection is called S. leucantha `Santa Barbara’, which is more compact than `Midnight’ and the old form, and has purple flowers of a lighter shade than `Midnight'.  `Santa Barbara' is a patent protected plant.  The last is called `Eder' and has variegated foliage.

The other two forms are the hybrids `Anthony Parker’ (a cross of the white-flowered form with pineapple sage, S. elegans (ex S. rutilans), and `Waverly’, an unknown cross of the white-flowered form.  Several people speculate that it is a cross with S. chiapensis.  A possible other hybrid is `Phyllis' Fancy'.  I will have to grow this one out and compare it with `Waverly'.

`Anthony Parker' at first looks like neither of its parents, since it has two foot long spikes of the darkest purple.  The flowers are similar in shape to and the plant has the habit of S.  leucantha, and the foliage shape is like S. elegans.

`Waverly' is earlier blooming, and has similar foliage to `Anthony Parker', but is mostly smooth.  In sun the foliage is more like S. leucantha, and young plants growing in shade, it is more like S. chiapensis.  The flowers are like double-sized S. leucantha flowers, with a pink-purple spot on the top of the hood developing on maturity.  The same spot is found on S. leucantha flowers, but they are much less intense in color and size.  It has the same habit as `Anthony Parker' and grows about half the size during the summer.

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Salvia rutilans (a form of S. elegans)

Salvia elegans (S. rutilans) Frieda Dixon

Salvia rutilans is now considered a form of S. elegans, most of which have the pineapple scent.  A number of new forms have been introduced, including a selection of the old S. rutilans called `Frieda Dixon’.  Others are clearly S. elegans forms like Honey Melon Sage, and a wooly creeping sport collected by Manuel Flores.  A plant collected by Dennis Breedlove from Chiapas might be a form of S. elegans as well. 

The old-fashioned pineapple sage has never had a common name, so calling it simply S. elegans with no other reference will cause a good deal of confusion.  The name `Scarlet Pineapple' has been applied to S. rutilans in England, but I do not know if this is the same form grown in America.  I prefer to insert a parenthetical note in its name: pineapple sage is S. elegans (formerly known as S. rutilans) or S. elegans (ex S. rutilans).

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