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Willow Gentian

Gentiana asclepiadea

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.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Gentianaceae (Gentian)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
90 centimetres tall
Gardens, meadows, riversides, rocky places, waterside, woodland.

Blue, 5 petals
Deep blue, trumpet-shaped flowers. Flowers each measure up to 4cm in size.
The fruit is a capsule.
A garden escape species which is almost identical to Marsh Gentian (Gentiana pneumonanthe) but with broader leaves. This species is found in drier places than that of Marsh Gentian. The lance-shaped, pointed leaves are in opposite pairs up the stem. The stems are arching. Perennial.
Other Names:
Milkweed Gentian.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Gentiana asclepiadea, also known as willow gentian, is a species of flowering plant in the gentian family. It is native to Europe and Asia, and is found in a variety of habitats, including meadows, pastures, and rocky areas.

It is a herbaceous perennial plant that can grow up to 90 cm tall. The leaves are lance-shaped, alternate and hairless. Flowers are typically a deep blue color, with a five-lobed, bell-shaped corolla, about 2-4 cm long, and appear in late summer or early autumn. They are usually arranged in large terminal clusters. It is protected in most of Europe and it's illegal to pick, uproot or disturb wild plants without permission from the landowner.


Willow gentian, also known as Gentiana asclepiadea, is a stunning herbaceous perennial plant that is native to Europe and Western Asia. It is a member of the Gentianaceae family, which is known for its beautiful blue flowers and medicinal properties. Willow gentian is a valuable addition to any garden, not only for its aesthetic value but also for its potential health benefits.

Description and Characteristics

Willow gentian is a slow-growing, clump-forming plant that can reach a height of up to 90cm. Its leaves are arranged in opposite pairs and are lance-shaped, smooth, and glossy. The plant blooms from July to September, producing beautiful, trumpet-shaped flowers that are deep blue with pale yellow centers. The flowers are clustered at the top of the stems and are around 5cm in length.

Growing Willow Gentian

Willow gentian is relatively easy to grow and care for, making it a popular choice for gardens. It prefers well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter and likes to be kept moist but not waterlogged. It also prefers partial shade but can tolerate full sun if the soil remains consistently moist. It is best propagated by seed or division in the spring.


Willow gentian has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for its various health benefits. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties and has been used to treat digestive disorders, respiratory problems, and skin conditions.

The plant has also been used in herbal liqueurs and bitters, and the flowers can be used to make a blue dye. In addition, the plant is a valuable source of nectar for pollinators such as bees and butterflies, making it an excellent addition to wildlife gardens.

Ecological Importance

Willow gentian is an important plant in many ecosystems as it provides nectar for a variety of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and moths. The plant also attracts hoverflies, which are beneficial insects that help control aphids and other garden pests. The leaves of the plant are a food source for the caterpillars of the scarce swallowtail butterfly, making it an important plant for conservation.

Cultural Significance

In traditional folklore, Willow gentian was believed to have magical properties and was used to ward off evil spirits. It was also thought to bring good luck and fortune to those who carried it. In some cultures, the plant was used as a love charm and was believed to enhance one's chances of finding a romantic partner.

Modern Uses

Today, Willow gentian is still used in traditional medicine for its various health benefits. It is commonly used to treat digestive problems, such as indigestion, bloating, and constipation. The plant is also used to reduce inflammation and relieve pain in conditions such as arthritis, gout, and muscle strains. Additionally, Willow gentian is used in herbal remedies for respiratory problems, such as asthma, bronchitis, and coughs.

Historical Uses

Willow gentian has a long history of medicinal use dating back to ancient Greece and Rome. The plant was used to treat a variety of ailments, including fever, snake bites, and stomach problems. The Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder wrote about the plant's healing properties, and it was also mentioned in the works of the Greek physician Dioscorides.


In the language of flowers, Willow gentian symbolizes gratitude and fidelity. The plant's blue flowers are also associated with the color of the throat chakra in traditional Indian medicine, which is thought to be the center of communication and self-expression.

Other Varieties

There are over 400 species of gentians, each with its own unique characteristics and uses. Some other popular varieties include the Fringed gentian (Gentianopsis crinita), which is native to North America and has fringed petals, and the Yellow gentian (Gentiana lutea), which is native to the Alps and is used to make the bittering agent in the Italian liqueur, Aperol.

Potential Side Effects

While Willow gentian is generally considered safe when used in moderation, it can cause side effects in some people. The plant contains bitter compounds that can cause digestive upset and should not be consumed in large quantities. People with gallbladder problems or ulcers should also avoid using the plant. Additionally, pregnant or breastfeeding women should consult a healthcare provider before using Willow gentian.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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