Gentianopsis crinita (Greater Fringed Gentian)
|Also known as:|
|Life cycle:||annual, biennial|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; moist soil; wet meadows, thickets, stream banks, low woods|
|Bloom season:||August - September|
|Plant height:||12 to 30 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: FACW|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Blooms are singular on slender, 2 to 7 inch stalks at the end of the main stem and arising from side branches. The trumpet shaped, royal blue to blue-violet flowers are 1½ to 2 inches long. with 4 rounded petal lobes that have long, delicate fringes around the edges. The broad white and blue striped throat is enclosed by 4 green or red-tinged sepals, broad at the base tapering to slender tips that reach the base of the spreading lobes. The mid-rib of the sepals is strongly ridged, making the closed buds appear square with a sharp point at the top. Inside the tube are 4 yellow to orangish stamens and a creamy white style. Flowers open on sunny days.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are 1 to 2½ inches long, ¼ to ¾ inch wide, toothless, hairless with a glossy surface, opposite, stalkless or clasping the stem, the lower leaves broadly egg-lance shaped, rounded at the base, becoming narrower higher on the stem. The erect stems are hairless, slightly 4-angled and leafy, the few to numerous side branches narrowly angled to the main stem.
For centuries, poets and artists have considered the Fringed Gentian's rich beauty which has inspired such writers as William Cullen Bryant, Emily Dickinson, and Henry David Thoreau. Infrequent throughout much of its native range, its populations are generally in small and scattered groups that depend on adequate seed production to persist from year to year. The confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers produced many herbarium specimens before the developing metropolitan area and introductions of non-native species extirpated them. I have heard accounts of dense populations that have taken to colonizing tailings basins on the Iron Range. Very similar species is Lesser Fringed Gentian (Gentianopsis procera), which is a smaller plant overall with shorter fringes on the flowers, less spreading petal lobes, and smaller, more linear leaves.
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Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County. Photos courtesy Rick Stich taken in Cass County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?