Big sagebrush is not the sage 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 gray-blue 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.