honey secured from black sage during the past 25 years have been so immense that fine sage honey is now offered for sale in many of the principal cities of the world. During the past 40 years there have been two or three exceptionally heavy flows when 200 pounds per colony were secured. At Ventura, Mendleson has obtained an average of 300 pounds per colony in a single season from the black and purple sages. While black sage occurs to a limited extent on Mt. Diablo, near San Francisco, and in localities in San Mateo County, practically the entire sage region of this state is restricted to the Coast Ranges, extending from the foothills in the northern part of San Benito and Monterey counties to San Diego County in the southwest corner. The largest amount of sage honey comes from Ventura and San Diego counties, while only a small surplus relatively is secured in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The sages belong to the genus Salvia (from the Latin salveo, to save, from the supposed medicinal value of some of the species) and to the mint family, or Labiatae. Salvia is a large genus comprising nearly 500 species widely distributed in both temperate and tropical regions.
The three species most valuable as honey plants in California are the black, white, and purple sages. Black sage is so called because the foliage is very dark green, and also because the flowers after blooming turn black and adhere to the bush until the next season. Purple sage has purple blossoms and the foliage has a very striking grayish-purple appearance on the hillsides. When the two shrubs are seen side by side in the distance on the foothills, the contrast is very marked, the one looking dark or black and the other purple. The foliage of the white sage is grayish-white and the flowers are also white. The black and purple sages are bushy shrubs very leafy at base, but the white sage has longer stems and is less bushy. The purple sage is much larger than the black sage and is sometimes six feet tall. The white sage grows on the flat mesa lands, while the black and purple sages are abundant on the foothills and the sunny slopes of the canyons.
Black Sage (Salvia mellifera). Also called button sage and blue sage. The black sage is a shrubby plant, 3 to 6 feet tall, with oblong leaves, dark green above and woolly beneath, and numerous flowering branches, which bear about five dense whorls or “buttons” of flowers. The corolla is two-lipped, white or pale purple, and rather small. The whorls, the larger of which are about an inch across, diminish in size toward the tip of the stalk, and in fading the flowers turn dark, but do not fall from the bushes. (Fig. 102.)
The honey flow lasts from the middle of March or the first of April until about the first of July. The crop is unreliable every other year, and there is a total failure once in three or four years. Every fifth year a large crop may be expected, and if the rainfall has been ample a fair surplus is sometimes obtained three years in succession. The black sage does not yield nectar freely unless there has been a sufficient rainfall during the winter, followed by a clear warm spring. The rainfall varies greatly in different years, presenting great extremes; but frequently it is less than 12 inches. In 1882 there was only 2.94 inches, while in 1905 it amounted to 22.12 inches. Although the plants are well adapted to live in semi-arid regions, if there is a drought they dry up and become valueless to the beekeeper. The flowers are often injured by the sage worm, and the foliage by rust. The honey is water-white, thick and heavy, and does not granulate.
Purple Sage (Salvia leucophylla). This species is a much larger shrub than the black sage, and the whorls of light purple flowers are nearly twice the size of those of the latter species. The honey is water-white, does not granulate readily, and its flavor is considered a little superior to that of the other sage honeys. It begins to bloom usually a little later than the black sage, but the honey flows from both species nearly coincide. Purple sage is most abundant in Ventura County, where it is a characteristic feature of the vegetation of the foothills. (Fig. 103.)
White Sage (Salvia apiana). A shrub, 3 to 5 feet tall, which is less bushy than the black sage, the branches being long, straight, and slender. The two-lipped white flowers are produced in great profusion in lateral racemes and the leaves are grayish-white on both sides. The lower flowers open first. It begins to bloom the latter half of May, and the blooming period lasts from six to eight weeks. On the dry plains or mesa lands and foothills of southern California there are thousands