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Autumn Gentian

Gentianella amarella

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Gentianaceae (Gentian)
Life Cycle:
Biennial or Perennial
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Fields, grassland, meadows, mountains, roadsides, rocky places, sand dunes, wetland, woodland.

Purple, 5 petals
The flowers of Autumn Gentian are characterized by their vibrant and rich hues, typically ranging from deep blue to violet. Each flower has a tubular shape with five distinct lobes. The plant produces these striking blooms during the late summer to early fall, adding a burst of color to the natural landscape. The lance-shaped leaves, arranged oppositely, often form a rosette at the base of the plant. Despite their visual appeal, Autumn Gentian flowers are known for their intense bitterness, a characteristic shared by many gentian species. These blooms contribute to the plant's ecological role by attracting pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, as part of the reproductive process. Overall, the flowers of Autumn Gentian showcase a captivating blend of beauty and botanical significance in the UK's natural habitats. 5 stamens, 2 styles. The most common Gentian found growing wild in the UK.
The fruit of Autumn Gentian typically develops in the form of a capsule. After the flowering period, the plant undergoes the process of seed formation within these capsules. The capsules contain small seeds that are released when the fruit reaches maturity. This reproductive mechanism allows for the dispersal of seeds, contributing to the plant's ability to propagate and establish itself in its natural habitat. The capsule, often dry and papery, is part of the plant's life cycle, enabling the next generation of Autumn Gentian to grow and flourish in suitable environments across the United Kingdom and other regions where it is found.
The leaves of Autumn Gentian are lance-shaped and typically arranged oppositely along the stems of the plant. They exhibit a smooth texture and are often sessile, meaning they lack a stalk and attach directly to the stem. The leaves can form a basal rosette at the base of the plant, contributing to its distinctive appearance. The lanceolate leaves are green and may have a slightly glossy or matte surface, depending on the specific species and environmental conditions. These leaves play a crucial role in photosynthesis, capturing sunlight to produce energy for the plant. The arrangement and characteristics of the leaves contribute to the overall structure and aesthetic appeal of Autumn Gentian in the United Kingdom and other regions where it thrives.
Autumn Gentian is not typically known for having a distinctive aroma. Unlike some plants that are valued for their fragrances, Autumn Gentian tends to be appreciated more for its visual appeal, particularly the vibrant and rich colours of its flowers. The plant's primary sensory attraction lies in the visual experience rather than any notable fragrance. As such, the Autumn Gentian is often admired for its beauty rather than any olfactory qualities, making it a visually captivating presence in the natural landscape.
Other Names:
Autumn Dwarf Gentian, Autumn Felwort, False Gentian, Northern Gentian.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Gentianella amarella, also known as Autumn Gentian or False Gentian, is a species of flowering plant in the gentian family (Gentianaceae). It is native to Europe and Asia, and is typically found growing in grasslands, meadows, and other open habitats, often in calcareous soil. The plant has yellow or pale greenish-yellow, funnel-shaped flowers and narrow, lanceolate leaves, and typically grows to be between 10 and 20 cm tall. Unlike G. campestris, this plant bloom in late summer to fall, and the name of 'Autumn Gentian' is referring to that. It is a perennial species.


Autumn Gentian, also known by its scientific name Gentianella amarella, is a vibrant and colorful plant that is native to Europe and parts of Asia. This stunning wildflower is often found in rocky and mountainous regions, where it thrives in nutrient-poor soils and cool temperatures.

One of the most striking features of the Autumn Gentian is its vivid blue-purple flowers, which bloom in the late summer and early autumn months. These delicate flowers are shaped like small trumpets and have intricate, white-and-yellow striped patterns on their petals. The Autumn Gentian's blooms are a favorite among pollinators, including bees and butterflies, which are attracted to their bright colors and sweet nectar.

Aside from its beauty, the Autumn Gentian also has a long history of medicinal use. It is believed that the plant's bitter-tasting roots and leaves were used by ancient Greeks and Romans to treat digestive ailments, liver problems, and fever. In more recent times, herbalists have used the plant to alleviate symptoms of gallbladder and liver disorders, as well as to stimulate the appetite and aid in digestion.

Despite its many beneficial properties, the Autumn Gentian is facing threats to its survival due to human activity. Habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change are all contributing to the decline of this important plant species. To combat this, conservationists are working to protect the Autumn Gentian's natural habitat and raise awareness of its ecological importance.

In addition to its ecological and medicinal significance, the Autumn Gentian also holds cultural significance for many people. In some cultures, the plant is associated with themes of love and romance, while in others it is seen as a symbol of hope and resilience in the face of adversity.

The Autumn Gentian is a truly remarkable plant that has captured the hearts and imaginations of people across the globe. Its stunning beauty, valuable medicinal properties, and cultural significance make it a plant species worth protecting and preserving for generations to come.

Autumn Gentians are typically found growing in rocky or gravelly soils in alpine or subalpine meadows, hillsides, and open woodlands. They prefer moist, well-drained soils, and are commonly found in areas with cooler temperatures and higher elevations.

The plant itself is a small perennial that typically grows to be between 5 and 20 cm tall. Its stems are thin and wiry, with small, lance-shaped leaves that grow in opposite pairs. The flowers of the Autumn Gentian grow on long, thin stalks and are typically between 1 and 2.5 cm long.

In addition to their beauty and medicinal properties, Autumn Gentians also play an important ecological role in their natural habitats. The plant's nectar and pollen are important food sources for many pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Additionally, the Autumn Gentian's roots help to stabilize soil and prevent erosion in mountainous areas.

To propagate Autumn Gentians, seeds should be sown in the fall or early spring in well-drained soil that has been loosened and cleared of any debris. The seeds require light to germinate, so they should be sown on the surface of the soil and lightly pressed in. Once established, Autumn Gentians require little maintenance, and can be left to grow and bloom for many years.

Autumn Gentians are not only beautiful and ecologically important, but they also have a rich cultural history. In traditional European folklore, the plant was believed to have magical properties and was often associated with love and romance. Some legends even suggest that the flowers of the Autumn Gentian were capable of granting wishes and could be used to cure lovesickness.

In addition to their role in folklore, Autumn Gentians have also played an important role in the history of medicine. The plant has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive disorders, fever, and liver problems. Its bitter-tasting roots and leaves contain compounds that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties, making it a valuable ingredient in many traditional herbal remedies.

Today, Autumn Gentians are still valued for their medicinal properties and are used in a variety of natural remedies and supplements. However, due to their popularity and the increasing demand for natural remedies, some populations of the plant have become threatened in certain areas.

To protect and preserve the Autumn Gentian, conservation efforts are underway in many parts of Europe and Asia. In some areas, the plant is protected by law, and efforts are being made to restore and enhance its natural habitats. Additionally, awareness campaigns are being conducted to educate the public about the ecological and cultural significance of the Autumn Gentian and to encourage responsible harvesting and use of the plant's resources.

Autumn Gentians are also sometimes referred to as felwort, bitterwort, or yellow centaury, due to their bitter-tasting properties and the similarity of their flowers to those of the centaury plant. The plant has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, and was even mentioned in the writings of the ancient Greek physician Dioscorides.

In addition to its use in medicine, Autumn Gentian has also been used for centuries in herbal liqueurs and bitters. The plant's bitter properties make it a valuable ingredient in these types of beverages, as they help to stimulate the appetite and aid in digestion.

The Autumn Gentian is also a popular ornamental plant, prized for its striking blue-purple flowers and delicate, slender stems. It is often grown in rock gardens or used as a ground cover in cooler climates, and its blooms are a popular choice for cut flower arrangements.

In terms of conservation, Autumn Gentians face several threats, including habitat loss, climate change, and overharvesting for medicinal and ornamental use. To address these threats, a number of conservation initiatives are underway, including efforts to protect the plant's natural habitats, promote responsible harvesting practices, and increase public awareness of the plant's ecological and cultural significance.

Overall, the Autumn Gentian is a fascinating and beautiful plant with a rich cultural and medicinal history. Its unique properties and delicate beauty make it a plant species worth protecting and preserving for future generations to enjoy. By working to conserve this remarkable plant, we can help to ensure that it continues to thrive and provide valuable benefits for both humans and the environment.

30 Fun Facts About the Autumn Gentian

  1. Scientific Name: Autumn Gentian is scientifically known as Gentianella amarella.

  2. Habitat: It is commonly found in alpine and subalpine meadows, preferring cool, damp areas.

  3. Blooming Season: Autumn Gentian typically blooms from late summer to early fall, adding vibrant colors to the landscape.

  4. Flower Characteristics: The flowers are usually deep blue to violet, with a tubular shape and five lobes.

  5. Height: These plants are generally low-growing, reaching heights of 10 to 30 centimeters.

  6. Leaves: The leaves are lance-shaped, opposite, and often form a rosette at the base of the plant.

  7. Perennial: Autumn Gentian is a perennial plant, meaning it lives for more than two years.

  8. Pollination: The flowers are pollinated by insects, including bees and butterflies.

  9. Native Range: It is native to Europe, but certain species can also be found in parts of North America and Asia.

  10. Ecological Importance: Autumn Gentian plays a role in the ecosystem by providing nectar for pollinators.

  11. Medicinal Uses: Some traditional herbal medicine practices use gentians for various ailments, although caution is advised due to their bitter compounds.

  12. Bitter Taste: The plant is known for its intensely bitter taste, a characteristic of many gentians.

  13. Cultural Significance: In some cultures, gentians symbolize clarity, healing, and the pursuit of inner peace.

  14. Conservation: Certain species of gentians are at risk due to habitat destruction and climate change.

  15. Soil Preference: Autumn Gentian often thrives in well-draining, acidic soils.

  16. Hardiness Zone: Depending on the species, it can be found in different hardiness zones.

  17. Photoperiod Sensitivity: Some gentians are sensitive to day length, and flowering is influenced by the length of daylight.

  18. Alkaloids: Gentians contain alkaloids, which contribute to their bitter taste and may have pharmacological properties.

  19. Vegetative Reproduction: They can reproduce vegetatively through the division of rhizomes.

  20. Adaptability: Autumn Gentian has adapted to survive in challenging mountainous environments.

  21. Seed Dispersal: Seeds are dispersed through various mechanisms, including wind and animal transport.

  22. Mycorrhizal Associations: Like many plants, gentians often form mutualistic relationships with mycorrhizal fungi.

  23. Growth Form: The growth form can vary, with some species exhibiting a mat-like habit and others growing more upright.

  24. Folklore: In folklore, gentians are sometimes associated with magic and enchantment.

  25. Rock Gardens: They are suitable for rock gardens due to their low-growing nature.

  26. Longevity: Some gentians can live for several decades under the right conditions.

  27. Diversity: The Gentianaceae family, to which Autumn Gentian belongs, includes a wide variety of species with different characteristics.

  28. Conservation Efforts: Conservation efforts may include protecting habitats and reintroducing gentian populations.

  29. Culinary Uses: While not commonly consumed, some cultures have used gentians to make beverages and liqueurs.

  30. Symbol of Endurance: The ability of gentians to thrive in harsh mountain environments has led to their symbolism representing endurance and resilience.


Autumn Gentian filmed at Nob End in Bolton, Greater Manchester on the 30th August 2023.


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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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