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Montana Field Guides

Three-tip Sagebrush - Artemisia tripartita

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S4

Agency Status
MNPS Threat Rank:
C-value: 4

External Links

General Description
PLANTS: Well-developed shrubs of 5–80 cm height with fibrous roots and adventitious buds that can sprout after fire (FNA 2006; Lesica et al. 2012). Plants are pale gray to gray-green and densely tomentose and aromatic (Lesica et al. 2012).

LEAVES: 1–3 cm long and deeply divided into linear or linear-oblong segments divided distally into 3 linear lobes.

INFLORESCENCE: Paniculate. Bracts that subtend the flowers are linear and entire.

Our plants are subspecies tripartita. Montana’s report of Artemisia tripartita ssp. rupicola is based on a MONT specimen (accession 56976) that was mislabelled and was actually collected in Wyoming. Subspecies rupicola is only known from Wyoming (FNA 2006).

Species Range

Range Comments
The range of subspecies tripartita is BC to NV, ID and WY (Lesica et al. 2012). The treatment in Flora of North America (2006) does not include Montana, which is an error. Artemisia tripartita ssp. tripartita has been found in most of Montana’s western counties.

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 132

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Sandy to clay soils of sagebrush steppe; valleys to subalpine (Lesica 2012 et al.).

Sagebrush in general is adapted to climates with cold winters where most precipitation falls in the winter (Meyer 2008). Shrubs in the genus Artemisia are important winter browse for ungulates (Meyer 2008). This species relies on wind for pollination and seed dispersal (Meyer 2008). Each seed is enclosed in a papery pericarp. The pericarp has mucilaginous nerves that may help the seed stick to the soil while its root penetrates (Meyer 2008).

Reproductive Characteristics
Flowers: Flowering heads are in paniculiform or spiciform arrays of (5-)8-15(-35) cm by 0.5-1.0 cm (FNA 2006). The involucre is turbinate, 1.5-3 mm wide and 2.5–3.5 mm tall; the outer phyllaries are green and canescent while the inner phyllaries are brown to purple and glandular (Lesica et al 2012). The receptacle is glabrous. Heads are comprised of 3 to 11 disk flowers that are perfect, glandular, and have yellow to reddish corollas of 1.5–2 mm length (Lesica et al. 2012). Achenes are glabrous or resinous and about 2 mm long (Lesica et al. 2012).

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 2006. Flora of North America North of Mexico. Vol. 19. Magnoliophyta: Asteridae, part 6: Asteraceae, part 1. Oxford Univ. Press, New York. xxiv + 579 pp.
    • Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 2006. Flora of North America North of Mexico. Vol. 20. Magnoliophyta: Asteridae, part 7: Asteraceae, part 2. Oxford Univ. Press, New York. xxii + 666 pp.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
    • Meyer, S.E. 2008. Artemisia L. in Bonner, F.T. and R.P. Karrfalt. The Woody Plant Seed Manual. Agric. Handbook No. 727. Washington, DC: USDA, Forest Service. 1223 p.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Hoffman, T.L. 1996. An ecological investigation of mountain big sagebrush in the Gardiner Basin. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 84 p.
    • Quire, R.L. 2013. The sagebrush steppe of Montana and southeastern Idaho shows evidence of high native plant diversity, stability, and resistance to the detrimental effects of nonnative plant species. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 124 p.
    • Rouse, R.A. 1957. Elk food habits range use and movements, Gravelly Mountains, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 29 p.
    • South, P.R. 1957. Food habits and range use of the mule deer in the Scudder Creek area, Beaverhead County, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 34 p.
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Citation for data on this website:
Three-tip Sagebrush — Artemisia tripartita.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from