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Spring Gentian

Gentiana verna

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
Grassland, meadows, mountains, rocky places, sand dunes, seaside.

Blue, 5 petals
The flowers are solitary and upright. They are a vivid blue colour, measuring up to 2.5cm (1 inch) in size. The centre of the flower is white. 5 stamens. Pollinated by butterflies and bees.
The fruit is a capsule.
A very low growing evergreen perennial flower with pointed oval leaves. The leaves appear in opposite pairs up the stem. Most commonly found growing on limestone turf in Teesdale and in some places along the coast of western Ireland.
Other Names:
Lucy of Teesdale.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Other Information


Gentiana verna, also known as spring 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 low-growing, herbaceous perennial plant, typically reaching heights of 20-30 cm. Leaves are lanceolate, opposite and hairless. Flowers are typically bright blue, trumpet-shaped, and about 1-2 cm long. They appear in early spring and are often the first flowers to appear in the wild. The corolla tube is closed at the mouth, which makes it difficult for insects to access the nectar and it relies on small gnats for pollination.

This plant is considered to be rare in some of the regions, with small or fragmented populations. It is protected in many regions and it's illegal to pick, uproot or disturb wild plants without permission from the landowner.


Spring gentian, also known as Gentiana verna, is a herbaceous perennial plant that belongs to the Gentianaceae family. It is native to Europe and grows in mountainous regions, usually in limestone or dolomite soil. The plant blooms in early spring, producing beautiful blue-violet flowers that are highly sought after by gardeners and hikers alike.

Appearance and Habitat

Spring gentian is a small plant that grows up to 10-20 cm tall. It has a short stem with a basal rosette of dark green leaves that are lance-shaped and slightly hairy. The flowers of the plant are star-shaped, with five petals that are blue-violet in color, and grow in clusters at the top of the stem.

The plant prefers growing in alpine and subalpine meadows, rocky slopes, and mountain grasslands. It can be found at elevations ranging from 500 to 3,000 meters above sea level, and usually grows in areas with a cool and moist climate.

Cultural Significance

Spring gentian has a rich history in European folklore and medicine. The plant was believed to have magical properties, and was used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including fever, stomach problems, and respiratory issues. It was also thought to be a powerful love potion, and was often given to a lover as a symbol of fidelity and commitment.

In modern times, spring gentian is highly valued by hikers and nature enthusiasts for its beauty and rarity. The plant is considered a symbol of resilience and perseverance, as it is able to survive in harsh mountain environments where few other plants can thrive.

Conservation Status

Despite its cultural significance and beauty, spring gentian is considered a threatened species in many parts of Europe. The plant is highly susceptible to habitat destruction and overharvesting, as its slow growth rate and low seed production make it difficult to propagate in the wild. In addition, climate change and other environmental factors are also affecting the plant's ability to survive in its natural habitat.

To protect spring gentian and other threatened plant species, many conservation efforts have been launched across Europe. These efforts include the creation of protected areas, such as national parks and nature reserves, as well as education and outreach programs aimed at raising awareness of the importance of biodiversity and conservation.

More Information about Spring Gentian

Spring gentian has also been used in herbal medicine for its bitter compounds, which have been found to stimulate digestion and improve appetite. It has also been used topically as an anti-inflammatory agent, particularly for treating skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

The plant is also an important source of nectar for many insect species, including butterflies and bees. Its blue-violet flowers are especially attractive to these insects, which helps to facilitate pollination and promote biodiversity in the surrounding ecosystem.

Spring gentian has been cultivated as an ornamental plant for centuries, and is a popular choice for rock gardens and alpine plantings. It is a relatively low-maintenance plant, and requires little watering or fertilization once established. However, it does require well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight to thrive.

In addition to its ornamental and medicinal uses, spring gentian has also been used in various cultural practices and traditions throughout history. For example, in some parts of Europe, the plant is associated with the winter solstice and is used in traditional ceremonies and rituals to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck and prosperity.

One interesting aspect of spring gentian is its ability to survive in harsh mountain environments. The plant has adapted to these extreme conditions by developing specialized structures and mechanisms that help it withstand the cold, wind, and intense sunlight that are common at high elevations.

For example, the leaves of the plant are covered in small hairs that help to trap heat and protect the plant from frost damage. The plant also has a shallow root system that allows it to absorb moisture and nutrients from the thin layer of soil that covers the rocky terrain where it grows.

In addition, spring gentian has a unique mechanism for pollination. The plant relies on a variety of insects to pollinate its flowers, but the flowers are adapted to prevent self-pollination. The petals of the flower are fused together, forming a long tube that can only be accessed by insects with long tongues, such as bumblebees and butterflies. This helps to ensure that the plant's genetic diversity is maintained and that its offspring are better adapted to survive in their environment.

Finally, it is worth noting that spring gentian is not the only species of gentian that is valued for its beauty and medicinal properties. There are over 400 species of gentian in the world, many of which have been used for centuries in traditional medicine and cultural practices. Gentian root, for example, is a well-known herbal remedy for digestive problems and is used to make a variety of alcoholic beverages, including bitters and liqueurs.

In conclusion, spring gentian is a remarkable plant with a rich cultural and ecological history. Its ability to thrive in harsh mountain environments and its unique adaptations for pollination make it a fascinating subject of study for botanists and ecologists alike. As efforts to protect and conserve the species continue, we can all appreciate the beauty and wonder of this remarkable plant and the important role it plays in our natural world.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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