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Fringed Gentian

Gentianopsis ciliata

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Gentianaceae (Gentian)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Bogs, fens, fields, grassland, meadows.

Blue, 4 petals
Clear blue flowers, with 4 large petals (not 5 like most other Gentians). The petals are fringed with ragged edges. The flowers each measure between 2.5 and 4cm across. Late flowering.
The fruit is a capsule.
An annual or biennial plant of chalk grassland. The leaves are lance-shaped with blunt tips. Leaves appear together up the stems in opposite pairs. Rare in Britain.
Other Names:
Blue Gentian, Showy Gentian.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Other Information


Gentianopsis ciliata, commonly known as fringed gentian, is a species of flowering plant in the gentian family. It is native to North America, and is found in a variety of habitats, including wet meadows, bogs, and fens.

It is a herbaceous perennial plant. The leaves are opposite, lance-shaped, and often have a toothed margin. The flowers are typically a deep blue color, with fringed petals, and are about 2-3 cm long. They appear in late summer and early autumn. It is considered as a species of concern in some of the states due to habitat destruction, but is not protected in most of the US.


Fringed Gentian, Gentianopsis ciliata, is a strikingly beautiful wildflower native to North America. It is a member of the Gentian family, Gentianaceae, and is also known as Blue Gentian or Showy Gentian. Fringed Gentian is a perennial plant that typically grows in wet meadows, prairies, and along streambanks, and is known for its showy, blue-violet flowers that bloom in late summer and early fall.

The Fringed Gentian's flowers are typically about two inches in diameter and have four petals that are fringed at the tips. The fringes give the petals a lacy appearance, which is where the plant gets its name. The flowers are typically a vibrant blue-violet color, although they can sometimes be pale blue or even white. The plant's leaves are arranged in pairs along the stem, and are oval-shaped with pointed tips. The leaves are typically around three inches long and are slightly hairy.

Fringed Gentian is an important plant for pollinators, as it is a favorite of bees and butterflies. The flowers produce nectar deep within their tubes, which can only be accessed by insects with long tongues, such as bumblebees and swallowtail butterflies. The plant's attractive flowers and important role in the ecosystem have made it a popular subject for nature lovers and photographers.

Fringed Gentian is a relatively easy plant to grow in the garden, although it does require some specific conditions. The plant prefers full sun to partial shade, and moist, well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. It is also important to avoid disturbing the plant's roots, as they are sensitive and can be damaged by excessive digging or foot traffic.

In some Native American cultures, Fringed Gentian has been used medicinally to treat a variety of ailments, including fever, digestive problems, and skin conditions. However, it is important to note that the plant's medicinal properties have not been extensively studied, and it is not recommended for use without consulting a healthcare professional.

Fringed Gentian is found throughout much of North America, from Canada to the United States. It is most commonly found in the Great Lakes region, the Northeastern United States, and the Appalachian Mountains, although it can also be found in other parts of the country as well. The plant typically blooms from August to October, and its flowers are often a welcome sight at the end of the growing season.

Fringed Gentian is not only beautiful but also has an interesting ecological relationship with its pollinators. Because the flower tubes are long and narrow, only certain types of insects are able to access the nectar within. This results in a specialized relationship between Fringed Gentian and its pollinators, with only those insects with the necessary characteristics being able to effectively pollinate the plant. This helps ensure the plant's continued survival and success.

Fringed Gentian is also an important cultural symbol for many Indigenous tribes throughout North America. The plant has been used in various traditional medicines, and its blue-violet flowers have been used in various ceremonies and rituals. It is also seen as a symbol of hope and resilience, as it is able to thrive in wetland habitats that have been degraded or destroyed by human activity.

Conservation efforts are underway to help protect Fringed Gentian and other wetland plants and habitats. Wetlands are important ecosystems that provide important services such as water filtration and flood control, and they are also important habitats for a wide range of plant and animal species. Protecting these habitats is crucial for the long-term health of our planet, and Fringed Gentian serves as a beautiful and important reminder of the importance of wetlands conservation.

One interesting fact about Fringed Gentian is that its blooms only open on sunny days. The flowers remain closed on cloudy days, which helps protect the plant's nectar from potential thieves, such as ants or other insects that may not contribute to the plant's pollination efforts.

Another interesting fact about Fringed Gentian is that its seeds require a period of cold stratification in order to germinate. This means that the seeds must be exposed to a period of cold temperatures in order to break their dormancy and trigger the process of germination. This is an adaptation that helps ensure the plant's seeds do not germinate prematurely, before environmental conditions are favorable for growth.

Fringed Gentian has also been used in horticulture, with various cultivars being developed for garden use. These cultivars often have larger flowers and come in a wider range of colors than the wild species. However, it is important to note that gardeners should always choose cultivars that have been responsibly sourced and are not taken from wild populations.

Finally, it is worth noting that Fringed Gentian is just one of many gentian species found throughout the world. The Gentian family is a large and diverse group of plants, with over 400 species found in a variety of habitats around the world. Many gentian species are known for their bitter compounds, which have been used in traditional medicines and alcoholic beverages such as bitters.

In conclusion, Fringed Gentian is a fascinating and beautiful plant that has many interesting ecological, cultural, and historical aspects. From its specialized relationship with pollinators to its important role in wetland ecosystems, this plant serves as a reminder of the interconnectedness and importance of the natural world. Whether in the wild or in our gardens, Fringed Gentian is a true treasure of North America's natural heritage.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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