Lyreleaf Sage, Cancer WeedSalvia lyrata

Native to the eastern and central US, Lyreleaf sage is an herbaceous perennial in the Lamiaceae (mint) family. It may grow 1 to 2 feet tall including the flower spike, but most of the plant is a basal rosette of leaves shaped like a lyre. It is evergreen and may take on deep bronze-red tones in winter. On the spike, lavender flowers occur in rings around the stem from mid-spring to early summer and are attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators. The name Salvia is derived from the Latin term salveo, which means ‘be well’ and refers to the plant's medicinal properties.

Lyreleaf sage will thrive in average, medium-moist, well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. It tolerates heat and humidity, as well as drought and flooding once established. It is moderately resistant to browsing by deer as well.  It is great alternative to non-native Ajuga. 

Use this sage in a meadow, naturalized area, or woodland. Its dense form, short height, and tolerance for mowing make it an excellent lawn alternative. Plant it in a butterfly, drought-tolerant, native, or pollinator garden. Because it tolerates occasional flooding and wet soil, it makes a good addition to a rain garden.  

There are various references to possible medicinal and edible uses. If interested, please research for yourself. This is a local ecotype - seeds came from plants that occurred naturally in the Neuse River floodplain in Kinston, NC. 

Photo by K. Mulcahy.  Early spring leaf color and emerging flower spike. 

USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913

Photo by Wasowski, Sally and Andy. TX 1/2000.

Photo by K. Mulcahy, 2023. Seedlings.

Sources:,, other authoritative resources and personal experience.