by Stephen Mifsud
   12 Apr 2021      ()
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Phlomis fruticosa   (Great Sage)

Phlomis fruticosa   (LAMIACEAE.) 
Images for this profile are taken from the Maltese Islands at or after year 2000.

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Nomenclature and Basic Information Images
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Profile Date Oct-2006 (last update: 12-Jan-2019)
Citation for this page Mifsud, S. (Oct-2006) Phlomis fruticosa retrieved from on 2021-Apr-12

Nomenclature and Basic Information

Species name :

Phlomis fruticosa L.
Published in L., Sp. Pl. 584 (1753)

Synonyms :
(basionym or principal syn.)

No Main Synonyms
Full list of synonyms : [Euro+Med] [PlantList] [IPNI] [POWO] [Catalogue of Life ]

Plant Family :

Lamiaceae Lindl. (=Labiatae) (The Mint Family)
36 species from the Lamiaceae family are recorded from the Maltese Islands.

English name(s) :

Great Sage, Jerusalem Sage

Maltese name(s) :

Salvja tal-Madonna

Status for Malta :

Indigenous. Present on the Maltese islands before man

Frequency :

Very Common     Common     Frequent     Scarce     Rare     Very rare     Extinct

Growth form :

Raunkiaer lifeform [info]: Nano-Phanerophyte (small trees to large shrubs)
Germination [info]: Dicotyledon

Legal Protection [link]:

Not Protected by Law (LN200/2011 or LN311/2006)

Red List (1989) :

This species has a threatened status and is listed in the Red Data Book of the Maltese Islands

Flowering Time :


Colour of Flowers:


Species Description and Distribution

Habitat in Europe:

Data will be available in the next update of this website.

Preferred habitat in Malta:

Valley sides, rocky areas, garigue rich in soil.

Botanical Description:

Shrub up to 130 cm. Stem eglandular. Lower leaves 3-9 cm, elliptical, lanceolate or lanceolate-ovate, truncate or cuneate at base, entire or crenulate, coriaceous, shortly stellate-tomentose above, white-stellate-tomentose beneath; petiole up to 4 cm. Floral leaves sessile or petiolate, mostly lanceolate, obtuse. Verticillasters (6-)14- to 36-flowered. Bracteoles 10-20 x (2-)3-7 mm, obovate, ovate-lanceolate, oblanceolate or elliptical, acuminate, straight at apex, stellate-tomentose, ciliate or not, with hairs 2-3 mm. Calyx 10-19 mm, stellate-lanate, not ciliate; teeth 1-3.5(-4) mm, subulate. Corolla 23-35 mm, yellow. Nutlets glabrous or pubescent.

Chromosome number:


Distributional range:

Mediterranean region, westwards to Sardegna.

Distributional map in Europe
and the Mediterranean region (2018):

Occurrences in Europe.
(from Flora Europaea pre year 1993):

Albania, Crete, Greece, Italy (excl. Sicily and Sardignia), ex-Jugoslavia, Sardinia, Sicily and/or Malta, Introduced in  the Azores, Britain (excl. Northern Ireland and Channel islands), France (incl. Monaco and Channel Islands but excluding Corse), Russia and former USSR

Occurrences in Europe and the Mediterranean region.
(Euro+Med Checklist, 2017) - Country codes

Al Cr Cy Gr It Ju Sa Si Tcs Tu(A) [Az Uk(K)]

Images (7 images)
   Phlomis fruticosa   -   Image Code: PHLFR-0.
   Phlomis fruticosa   -   Image Code: PHLFR-1.
   Phlomis fruticosa   -   Image Code: PHLFR-2.
   Phlomis fruticosa   -   Image Code: PHLFR-3.
   Phlomis fruticosa   -   Image Code: PHLFR-4.
   Phlomis fruticosa   -   Image Code: PHLFR-5.
   Phlomis fruticosa   -   Image Code: PHLFR-6.

Links & Further info

Google Web

Google Images

Yahoo Web

Yahoo Images




Med Checklist

Cat. of Life



The Plant List


Vienna Virt. Hb.





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Wild Plants of Malta & Gozo - Plant: Phlomis fruticosa (Great Sage)

Great Sage

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Species name:

Phlomis fruticosa   L.


Carl von Linné
   Sweden, 1707-1778

General names:

Great Sage, Jerusalem sage

Maltese name:

Salvja tal-Madonna

Plant Family:

Lamiaceae / Labiatae   (Mint Family)

Name Derivation:

Phlomis = From the Greek word for mullein, perhaps due to the similarity of leaves (Greek);
fruticosa = Having a shrubby or bushy appearance (Latin).


Phlomis portae, Phlomis collina, Phlomis salviifolia

Plant Description

Life Cycle:



Valley sides, rocky areas, garigue rich in soil.

Sources in Malta:

Locally frequent, such as in Wied Incita, Wied Anglu, Wied il-Ghasel, Fawwara and Ghar Lapsi (north of reverse osmosis plant).

Plant Height:


Flowering Time:


A perennial plant that assumes a shrubby growth form due to the numrous branches it forms, mostly at the basal third of the plant, but ocassionally also at the lower part of the flowering stems. It is an evergreen plant, but in Malta it looses some leaves during arid and hot Summer. Young stems and flowering stems are green, covered with densely short, stiff, felt-like hairs (tomentose) and have a squarish cross sectional area. Lower stems are less hairy and turns woody with a greyish-brown colour.

Leaves have a characteristic greyish/silvery-green colour and a velvet-like texture due their tomentose hairs. Lower face of leaves are more tomentose (felt-like) and greyish. They are arranged along stems in an opposite and decussate fashion (alternating in pairs at right angles). All leaves are petiolated (longer in basal leaves, up to 35mm) and have a rather oval-lanceolate shape, measuring between 3-8cm long. Leaves have an entire, ash-grey outline and many show a shallow sinusoidal (wavy) margin. Prominent, reticulate, sunken venation is seen at the upper face of the leaf and raised out at the lower face.

The inflorescence is a densely flowered, compact verticillaster of about 15-35 flowers each and subtended from a pair of bracts. Bracts are oblanceolate to obovate in shape, subsessile and often pointing down, nearly parallel to the flowering stem. Usually there is a solitary, terminal verticillaster 'head' per flowering stalk, but some adult plants show 2 or 3 verticillasters well spaced over each other.

The calyx has an actinomorphic, 5-toothed tubular structure (about 12-18mm long) and covered with long, white hairs. It has 10 longitudinal veins and its teeth are narrow and long (awl shaped).

The corolla is basically a 2-lipped, zygomorphic structure, about 25-32mm long. Both lips have the same vivid yellow colour, but vary in shape. The upper lip has a narrow hood-shaped structure that arcs downwards towards the lower lip, nearly touching it. The lower edges are slightly winged out and the uppermost part is grooved or few-toothed. The lower lip has a flattened structure with 3 lobes. There are 2 small lateral lobes and a central, large, rounded lobe which has a central notch and its sides are sometimes curved up.

The flower have 4 fertile stamens running parallel to each other with a pair shorter from the other. The longer pair protrude out from half-way the upper lip, arching down towards the lower lip to the extent that they come in touch. Stamens have firm, pale yellow filaments and thick, amber-yellow anthers. The female part is mostly hidden by the perianth and consists of an ovary situated at the base of the calyx and a long style that protrudes out somewhere at the uppermost part of the upper lip. Like the stamens, it arcs down towards the lower lip, but instead remains close to the upper lip. The style has a bifid stigma (split in two equal parts).

The fruit is a set of 4 nutlets held inside the persistent calyx. They are light brown, cylindrical with 3 rounded sides, rounded apex and about 4-5mm long. When fully ripe, they detatch from the calyx base and fall out by the swaying of the long flowering stems.

Links & Further info

Photos from Google Info Link 2
Info Link 3 Info Link 4

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A:  Additional Information about this plant species
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B:   Where have you seen this plant on the Maltese Islands?
Locations in Malta or Gozo where you have encountered this plant.
Mostly applies for locally frequent to rare plants.

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Try to be as concise as possible. Examples: Dingli Cliffs (near chapel), Wied Incita (Zebbug side), Golden Bay, Triq il-Kbira (Qormi), Barriera ta' Abdul (Xlendi), Fields near salib tal-gholja (Siggiewi), Buskett (Verdala side), Chadwik Lakes (Fiddien side) and other such locations around Malta and Gozo. GPS readings are welcomed too! Thank you.
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