The Chia Biology Page


Link to Nathaniel Ward's Terrarium Page

My name is David Hershey. This page will be about the biology of the chia plant famous, or infamous, for its use in ChiaPets. The page is currently under construction but will eventually include information on scientific names, chia seed structure, ethnobotany, possible economic uses, references to the chia literature, and use of chia in science teaching. Much of the information comes from my 1995 Science Activities [32(2):8-12] article "Don't Just Pet Your Chia". Please email me if you have any chia photos, information, or links you think would be appropriate here.


Scientific Name

Chia is the common name of at least a half dozen species of Salvia. As you might expect, this has caused considerable confusion. The scientific name on the ChiaPet box is Salvia columbariae. However, the species grown on ChiaPets is actually Salvia hispanica. The famous botanist, Carolus Linnaeus, provided the name. Hispanica is Latin for Spain, however, chia is native to Mexico. Chia was apparently introduced to Spain around 1521, when Cortes conquered the Aztecs. By the time of Linnaeus (1707-78) chia was growing wild in Spain and was mistaken for a native species.


Both species of chia mentioned above were important food crops of native Americans. Salvia hispanica was a major food crop of the Aztecs. The roasted seeds were mixed with water and eaten as a gruel or ground into flour for baking. The Aztecs also used chia seed oil in body paints and as an ointment and emollient. A paste made from the mucilaginous seeds was used as a poultice for wounds and to remove dirt from the eye. The seeds of Salvia columbariae, at least, have stimulative properties similar to caffeine. Today, long distance hikers eat chia seeds to provide energy, and chia seeds are mixed with fruit juices to make refreshing drinks.

Seed Structure

Possible Economic Uses

Literature References

Chia Trivia

How many different kinds of chia planters have been marketed?

Chia Links

A ChiaPet time lapse avi movie and a virtual reality ChiaPet that can be rotated 360 degrees on screen:


A humorous collection of celebrity ChiaPets:

Chia Pet Hall of Fame:

A chia screen saver:

Chia Screen Saver

Nonprofit group selling seeds of native American crops:

Native seeds/SEARCH

The commercial ChiaPet page:

ChiaPet Product Page

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Nathaniel Ward's Terrarium Page


Last Update: 15 Jan. 98

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