Gentiana affinis (Pleated Gentian)

Plant Info
Also known as: Northern Gentian, Rocky Mountain Gentian, Prairie Gentian
Family:Gentianaceae (Gentian)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Special Concern
Habitat:sun; moist, saline soils; prairies, meadows, wetland edges
Bloom season:August - September
Plant height:6 to 16 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
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: 5-petals Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flower] Single to a few flowers at the top of the stem and usually also arising from leaf axils on the upper stem. Flowers in the terminal cluster are stalkless or nearly so and those in the axils are stalked. Flowers are mostly ¾ to 1½ inch (18 to 40 mm) long, erect, funnel-shaped with 5 widely spreading, sharply pointed, oval to triangular lobes 1/8 to ¼ inch (3 to 7 mm) long. Between the lobes is connective, pleat-like tissue, ragged on the outer edge. The inner surface of lobes and pleats is bright blue variably covered with whitish to greenish spots; the inner surface to the tube is whitish with green streaks. Inside the tube is a column of pale-tipped stamens and a single style.

[photo of calyx] Outer surfaces are mostly light green. The calyx cupping the base of the flower is short tubular with four narrow lobes, variable in size but usually shorter than the floral tube, sometimes absent altogether or reduced to stubs.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of mid-stem leaves] Leaves are opposite, narrowly lance-elliptic, 3/8 to 1½ inches (1 to 4 cm) long and to 3/8 inch (1 cm) wide, pointed or blunt at the tip, rounded or narrowed at the base, stalkless, toothless, and hairless except for short, stiff hairs around the edges. The lowest leaves are short and broad, becoming longer and proportionately narrower as they ascend the stem, the largest leaves may be around mid-stem. Leaf pairs are at right angles to the pair above and below. Stems are usually multiple from the base, erect to ascending or prostrate but rising at the tip (decumbent), unbranched, typically tinged reddish and are covered in minute, soft hairs.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a cylindric capsule ¾ to 1½ inches long, containing numerous small, flat seeds with narrow wings


Pleated Gentian is one of the rarer Gentian species in Minnesota, reaching the eastern edge of its range in our western counties. Farther west, it is found in alpine meadows, bog edges and open forests, but here is primarily restricted to moist, saline wetlands and prairie remnants. According to the DNR, its ecological requirements in MN are not well understood but its preferred habitat is forever at risk from agriculture and invasive species. It was listed as a Special Concern species in 1984.

There are two varieties of G. affinis: var. affinis, the most common and present in Minnesota, has flowers mostly ¾ to 1 inch (18 to 30 mm) long, the flower lobes less than ¼ inch (3 to 5 mm) long, and linear calyx lobes; var. ovata, present in the western US, has flowers mostly 1 to 1½ inches (30 to 40 mm) long, floral lobes ¼+ inch (5 to 7 mm) long, and calyx lobes lance-elliptic to linear. While the spotted flowers of G. affinis are distinctive, it may be confused with the more common and very similar Downy Gentian (Gentiana puberulenta), which has larger flowers (1½ to 2+ inches) that are a deeper blue-violet and lack any spotting, and is found in dry, sandy soils.

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More photos

Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Pennington County. Photos by Janet Nelson taken in Polk County.


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

Posted by: Jessica Christensen - Polk county
on: 2018-08-12 16:14:45

We found this in native prairie that borders land owned by the nature conservancy. It is just south of a stand of popple, in a wetter area. This land has not been pastured for decades. We are considering burning the 40 acre parcel. Any advice would be appreciated.

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