Big sagebrush is not the sage currently used in cooking but it does have a fresh,
healthful and rather powerful fragrance. Try pinching a leaf to smell the
pungent, cleansing odor. The shrub is usually about 2 to 4 feet tall and wide,
reaching about 7 feet maximum. The trunk is gray (black when wet), shaggy, and
about 2 to 4 inches diameter. The foliage has a blue-gray or greenish gray
color. The plant was part of the diet of Ancestral Puebloan Indians: flowers,
seeds and leaves. Big Sagebrush is a very common plant near the South Rim.
Big Sagebrush leaves are about 1 to 2 inches long, hairy, wedge-shaped,
soft, and divided at the tips into 3 lobes. The leaves are an important winter
browse for elk, mule deer, and bighorn sheep as well as rabbits and other small
animals. Modern native people tie up a bunch of leaves and twigs, then light
them to make them smoke. They pass the smoke around the home, "smudging" each
room to purify the house spiritually as well as olfactorally.