Gentiana puberulenta (Downy Gentian)
|Also known as:||Prairie Gentian|
|Habitat:||sun; upland prairie, open woods|
|Bloom season:||August - October|
|Plant height:||8 to 18 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Clusters of 1 to 9 flowers at the top of the stem and in the upper leaf axils. Flowers in the terminal cluster are stalkless and those in the axils are short stalked. Flowers are bright blue to deep blue-violet, 1½ to 2¼ inches across when fully open, upright, bell-like with 5 widely spreading, sharply pointed, oval to triangular lobes. Between the lobes is connective, pleat-like tissue, ragged on the outer edge and sometimes lighter colored. Inside the tube, the base of the petals is white with dark blue stripes or streaks; the outer surface of the petals is darker, almost purplish black. The column of white, creamy-tipped stamens in the center often become spreading with age. The calyx is short tubular with four narrow, leafy bracts widely spreading below the flower.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are simple and opposite, lance-shaped to lance-oblong, ¾ to 2¾ inches long and ¼ to ¾ inch wide, stalkless and toothless, with glossy surfaces and fine, short hairs along the midrib and/or edges, but only towards the base. Leaf pairs are at right angles to the pair above and below. Stems are erect to ascending, rarely branched, typically tinged reddish and are covered in minute, soft hairs, often in faint lines.
All of Minnesota's other native Gentian species are more of less associated with moist soils, often bordering into wetlands, but Downy Gentian can put on an unexpected showy display of deep blue-violet on open dry prairies and hills. It is always a pleasant surprise in late summer and early autumn when much of the prairie is putting out golden fall colors. Though we've not been there ourselves, we've been told that along hiking trails in the sandy hills of Glacial Lakes State Park south of Starbuck is an excellent place to view this in September.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Downy Gentian plants
- Downy Gentian habitat
- side view of flower
- closed flowers similar to Bottle Gentian
- flower cluster
Photos by K. Chayka taken at Seven Sisters Prairie (TNC), Ottertail County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Douglas, Mower and Ottertail counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?