1. Family: Lamiaceae Martinov
    1. Genus: Salvia L.
      1. Salvia aurea L.

        Salvia africana-lutea is native to the Cape region of South Africa, an area noted for its exceptionally rich flora and high levels of endemism (species unique to a particular area, region or country).


    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description
    Beach salvia is a spreading shrub with rounded, greyish leaves and unusual orange-brown flowers.

    Salvia africana-lutea is native to the Cape region of South Africa, an area noted for its exceptionally rich flora and high levels of endemism (species unique to a particular area, region or country).

    This species was known by 1731 to Philip Miller, Superintendent at the Chelsea Physic Garden, and was described and named by Linnaeus in Species Plantarum (1753).

    Sydenham Edwards illustrated it under the name  Salvia aurea in  Curtis’s Botanical Magazine in 1792. In the accompanying text William Curtis described it as ‘a hardy greenhouse plant’, adding that ‘such as are delighted with the singular rather than the beautiful appearances of plants, cannot fail of ranking the present species of sage among their favourites.’

    Some may consider the rusty-coloured, hooded flowers strange rather than attractive, but this is true of a number of members of the sage family. The related species,  Salvia africana-caerulea, has pale blue flowers.

    Species Profile

    Geography and distribution

    Salvia africana-lutea is native to South Africa, occurring from the southern and eastern Cape to Namaqualand.


    Salvia africana-lutea is a spreading shrub, with stems reaching 2 m. Its leaves are rounded, downy, greyish-green and aromatic. The hooded flowers, which appear from June to December, open bright yellow and then fade to rusty orange-brown. The flowers are held in short sprays (10 cm long). The papery calyces remain on the plant after flowering.

    The flowers are nectar-rich and attractive to bees, moths and sunbirds.

    Threats and conservation

    There are some reports of this species being over-collected from the wild for medicinal use. As a result, research is underway to develop micropropagation techniques enabling the production of large numbers of cultivated plants (several thousands from a single shoot) so that wild populations can be conserved.


    Salvia africana-lutea is grown as an ornamental. The aromatic leaves are used to make a tea for treating coughs, colds and bronchitis. They are also added to potpourri mixtures.

    Cultivation at Kew since 1789

    This species has been cultivated at Kew since 1789, and is mentioned by William Aiton in Hortus Kewensis (a catalogue of the plants in cultivation at Kew).

    This species at Kew

    Salvia africana-lutea is growing in the Director’s Garden.

    Kew’s Economic Botany Collection includes samples of the leaves and stem of Salvia africana-lutea that are available to researchers from around the world, by appointment.

    South Africa
    Dry hillsides, coastal sand dunes and fynbos near the sea.
    Least Concern (LC) according to Red List of South African Plants 2009, following IUCN Red List criteria.

    None known.

    Ornamental, medicinal.



    Found In:

    Cape Provinces

    Introduced Into:

    New Zealand North

    Common Names

    Beach salvia

    Salvia aurea L. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    Apr 1, 1973 Ecklon, C. [76.10], South Africa K000193344 Unknown type material

    First published in Sp. Pl. ed. 2: 38 (1762)

    Accepted in:

    • [8] (1988) Flora of New Zealand 4: 1-1365. R.E.Owen, Government Printer, Wellington.

    Synonym in:

    • [5] Govaerts, R. (2003) World Checklist of Selected Plant Families Database in ACCESS . The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. [Cited as Salvia africana-lutea.]


    • [1] The Plant List (2010). Salvia africana-lutea. (Accessed 24 July 2011).
    • [2] World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2010). Salvia africana-lutea. (Accessed 24 July 2011).
    • [3] Raimondo, D. et al. (2009). Red List of South African Plants 2009. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
    • [4] Makunga, N. P. & van Staden, J. (2008). An efficient system for the production of clonal plantlets of the medicinally important aromatic plant: Salvia africana-lutea L. Plant Cell Tissue and Organ Culture 92: 63-72.
    • [6] Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J. (2000). Cape Plants. A Conspectus of the Cape Flora of South Africa. National Botanical Institute, Cape Town/Missouri Botanical Garden, St Louis.
    • [7] Phillips, R. & Rix, M. (1991). Conservatory and Indoor Plants. Vol. 2. Pan Books, London.
    • [9] Codd, L. E. (1985). Lamiaceae, In: Flora of Southern Africa Volume 28(4), ed. O. A. Leistner. Botanical Research Institute, Department of Agriculture and Water Supply, South Africa.
    • [10] Curtis, J. (1792). Salvia aurea (golden sage). Curtis’s Botanical Magazine t.182.


    International Plant Names Index
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    Kew Species Profiles
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