Halenia deflexa (American Spurred Gentian)

Plant Info
Also known as: Green Gentian
Family:Gentianaceae (Gentian)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; moist woods, mossy conifer forests, ravines, bogs, swamps
Bloom season:July - August
Plant height:6 to 30 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals Cluster type: whorled

[photo of flowers] Clusters of 2 to 9 stalked flowers at the top of the plant, whorled around upper leaf axils, and at the end of few branching stems arising from upper leaf axils. Flowers are 1/3 to ½ inch (to 12 mm) long with 4 petals fused near the base, each egg-shaped, erect but flaring out slightly at the pointed tip, and narrowing at the base forming a tubular spur half to nearly as long as the rest of the petal. Hiding inside are 4 yellow-tipped stamens. Color is light green to purple-tinged. The sepals are green, lance to egg-shaped, tapering to a pointed tip, alternating with the spurs, half to nearly as long as the petals above the spur.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are ¾ to 2 inches (2 to 5 cm) long, ¼ to ~½ inch wide, toothless and hairless. Basal leaves are oval to spatula shaped, narrowing to a short stalk; stem leaves are more egg-shaped, broadly rounded at the base, tapering to a sharp point, strongly 3 or 5 veined, stalkless or nearly so, and widely spaced on the stem. Stems are erect, hairless, square and unbranched or few branched in the upper plant.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is a conical capsule that protrudes from the opening of the flower like a rhinoceros horn.


Between the subdued flower color and green of the foliage it is a species easy to pass by in the lush undergrowth of damp woods and bogs. If you manage to notice one, suddenly you may see many around you. The unique flowers and fruits make this not likely to be confused with any other species. There are two subspecies (or vars, depending on the reference), though they are not well documented and distinguishing characteristics are unknown; subsp. brentoniana is apparently rare and limited to parts of eastern Canada, while subsp. deflexa is present across much of Canada and parts of the northern US, including Minnesota.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Banning State Park, and in Beltrami and Hubbard counties. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Cass, Hubbard and/or Lake counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Karine - Chisholm, MN
on: 2011-08-10 21:29:45

Saw this all over working on the Sturgeon River Trail in the Superior National Forest North of Chisholm.

Posted by: Deane - Itasca State Park
on: 2013-02-02 08:38:11

We found this along the Dr. Roberts trail, not knowing what it was. As you described, by the time we had figured it out, we realized it was all around us.

Posted by: Brandon - Embarrass, St. Louis County
on: 2016-06-29 14:07:55

I found it on the trail in a boggy area. I didn't know what it was, thought it may be related to the aquilegia but was delighted to find it a gentian.

Posted by: Gail - Voyageurs National Park
on: 2016-09-03 18:24:04

Found a patch of plants growing near the shore in mid-August, on an island in the park.

Posted by: Susan Premo - Mcdougal lake, lake county
on: 2021-07-04 20:47:29

Along the Stony river there is a small bridge , we went into the woods and I spotted this. Such a lovely little flower. I went through your site by bloom time, looking at each plant until I saw it. Whew! Didn't take quite as long as I feared!

Posted by: Brett W - Koochiching County
on: 2023-08-05 16:33:39

Found for the first time and blooming Aug 5 along the hiking trail in Frans Jevne SP.

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