Salvia Divinorum: Botany
Salvia divinorum, also known as Yierba de Maria, shepherdess’s herb, seer’s sage and diviner’s sage, just to name a few, is a powerful hallucinogenic herb relative to the mint family. (Siebert, 2004) Salvia divinorum is endemic to the small sierra region located in the northeastern corner of Mexico; Oaxaca, to be exact. (Riesfield, 1993) For centuries the Mazatec Indians have used this powerful herb as a divination tool during their rituals and ceremonies as an avenue to induce visions and obtain entry into supernatural realms and contact other-worldly entities. (Sibert, 2004) Of the nearly 1,000 various species of salvia, only one is known to possess the potency desired to induce such hallucinations, which is salvia divinorum. (Riesfield, 1993)
The plant is a member of the mint family, or Lamiacea, (formerly known as Labiatae) and it spreads vegetatively. (Riesfield, 1993) Salvia divinorum flourishes mainly in shaded areas with an intensely humid atmosphere and flowers in sporadic intervals from October to June. (Riesfield, 1993) Salvia divinorum may grow up to a meter high and possess square hollow stems with large leaves, and occasional white flowers with violet calyxes. (https://psychonautwiki.org/wiki/Salvia_divinorum_(botany)) The stems themselves are quite fragile, and are easily broken at the nodular junctions. Even the slightest wind may break and damage these fragile plants. In nature, salvia divinorum typically propagates by falling over and rooting where free roots touch the earth. When the humidity is perfect, roots can often be visible at the junctions, which makes salvia an excellent cloning, or cutting candidate. Some botanists even believe it to be a cultigen, or a product of artificial selection, which means it may have never became the powerful herb it is today without human intervention! (http://www.teachingplants.com/salvia-botany/salvia.htm)
Riesfield, who wrote The Botany of salvia divinorum (Labitatae), had this to say about salvia divinorum, “Flower nectar and corolla dimensions suggest ornithophily, and the only pollination event observed involved a single hummingbird, but other factors suggest that visits by birds to the flowers in their present range are opportunistic, and not a product of plant-pollinator coevolution. The species is diploid with n= 11, pollen fertility is reduced, there is no active pollen tube inhibition within the style, but some event or process after the pollen tube reaches the ovary is aberrant, as no fully developed nutlet has ever been collected from a Mexican plant” which suggests it is not necessary for other species to assist in its cross-pollination efforts.
The first academic reports of salvia divinorum, or salvia, were made by ethnologist Jean B. Johnson in 1939 during his studies on Mazatec shamanism. (Mahendran, et. al., 2015) In the winter of 1985, field work was conducted in the neighboring village of Cerro Quemado, where the plants were monitored during the night and studied by Valdes. Valdes stated, “To study pollen germination and pollen tube growth, styles were collected from flowers that had been self- or cross-pollinated between 4 and 18 hrs. earlier. The styles were fixed in FAA and stored in distilled water at approximately 5¯C. They were cleared with 8N sodium hydroxide for 24 hrs., then taken through several washes with distilled water, and stained with aniline blue at a concentration of .01 percent for 4 hrs. Fluorescence microscopy was performed with a Zeiss microscope equipped with a Zeiss UG1 excitation filter and 47, -65 barrier filters. The UV source was an Osram HBO 200W mercury vapor lamp. Staining and microscopy techniques mostly followed Martin (1959) as modified by Stettler and Guries (1976). Styles were slightly crushed beneath a coverslip and observed whole in a darkened room. The callosic lining of the pollen tubes fluoresces a bright yellow-green, but the amount and distribution of callose varies between taxa (Martin 1959). Scanning several unrelated species of Salvia showed that pollen tubes come in and out of visibility over the length of the style, and can easily be distinguished from the two vascular bundles which fluoresce a uniform, much less brilliant yellow. Since fluorescence was most visible at the stigmatic and ovary ends of the style, an inability of the tubes to reach the ovary should have been readily detectable.” https://www.iamshaman.com/blog/products/the-botany-of-salvia-divinorum-labiatae/
SIEBERT, D. J. (2004). Localization of Salvinorin A and Related Compounds in Glandular Trichomes of the Psychoactive Sage, Salvia divinorum. Annals of Botany, 93(6), 763-771. doi:10.1093/aob/mch089
REISFIELD, A. (1993). THE BOTANY OF SALVIA DIVINORUM (LABIATAE). SIDA, Contributions to Botany, 15(3), 349-366. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41967014
Mahendran, R., Lim, H. A., Tan, J. Y., Chua, S. M., & Winslow, M. (2016). S salvia divinorum: An overview of the usage, misuse, and addiction processes. Asia-Pacific Psychiatry, 8(1), 23-31. doi:10.1111/appy.12225