Salvia lyrata

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: cancer weed 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Lamiaceae
Native Range: Eastern and central United States
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 0.75 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to June
Bloom Description: Purple
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer, Clay Soil, Wet Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil


Easily grown in average, medium to wet soils in full sun. Prefers moist, sandy or clay soils. Tolerates very light shade, but best in full sun. Also tolerates heat and humidity. Self-seeds and naturalizes in optimum growing conditions.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Salvia lyrata, commonly called cancer weed, is a Missouri native perennial which typically occurs in moist or sandy soils in open woods, clearings, thickets and streambanks in the southeastern Ozark region of the State. Features whorls of two-lipped, lavender blue flowers (1 inch long) in upright, interrupted spikes which typically rise above the foliage to 1-2' tall. Flowers bloom in mid to late spring. Irregularly lobed, basal leaves (often somewhat lyre-shaped) with smaller and sparser stem leaves. Also commonly called lyre-leaved sage. A mint family member that is attractive to bees and butterflies.

The genus name Salvia comes from the Latin word salveo meaning "to save or heal", in reference to the purported medically curative properties attributed to some plants in the genus.

Specific epithet means shaped like a lyre for the leaves that are often somewhat lyre-shaped.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Borders, cottage gardens, native plant gardens, wild or naturalized plantings or moist areas in low spots or along streams or ponds.