Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bottle Gentian

I've found a new favourite wild flower.  I like it well enough to devote a blog entirely to it (unlike all my other wild flower tributes this year). Actually it was one of those plants that has been immortalized in literature.

God made a little Gentian —
It tried — to be a Rose —
And failed — and all the Summer laughed —
But just before the Snows
There rose a Purple Creature —
That ravished all the Hill —
And Summer hid her Forehead —
And Mockery — was still —
The Frosts were her condition —
The Tyrian would not come
Until the North — invoke it —
Creator — Shall I — bloom?
           Emily Dickenson

I was not certain what it even looked like until a few years ago. The Missus and I were out on a walk at the sister-in-law's cottage several years ago, when I spied a bright blue flower on the side of the road that I had never seen before.  Silly and unthinking me, I picked it and took it back to the cottage.

When I got home, I did an internet search - I was getting a little suspicious that perhaps I had found a bottle gentian.  A search of Google images brought up pages of the same little flower that I had sitting in a vase on the table.  Of course my guilt was not assuaged by the dire warning accompanying these photos that indicate the plant is somewhat endangered and rare.  For a couple more years I searched the same area, looking for proof that I hadn't killed the last of a species in that particular habitat - no luck.

Enter Act II.  We purchased our new home, in 2008, complete with 17 wonderful wild accompanying acres of bush, swamp and clearings (slowly returning to nature).  As well there is about four acres of clearing that is home to the local hydro-line.  Whilst walking this area that first August, I came across a few bright blue flowers - bottle gentians!  I was as excited as most people would have been if they had just panned a one pound gold nugget from their property.  In addition, I also discovered a similar coloured flower in the same vicinity, but with a completely different form.  A quick internet search showed me, I was the proud owner of the habitat of not only bottle gentians, but also fringed gentians - think two gold bricks.

Later that fall I carefully harvested the seed pods from a couple of these plants.  That winter I germinated the seed.  It germinated readily but produced the tiniest little plants - looked more like moss than anything.  They were extremely delicate, and I lost most before they ever reached the great out doors.  I transplanted them into larger pots and kept them in a row in my garden for the first year.  The next spring I had two viable plants, that I set into my perennial beds.  Below is the stronger plant of the two.  Don't you agree it is a plant worthy of the perennial bed - great form and that amazing blue colour, that is so illusive in domesticated plants.

Upon inspection of our property this fall, this is the only wild specimen I could locate - the area is just getting too grown up with small trees, and I think gentians do not like competition.
Another specimen I found on one of my woodland trespasses (and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive our......).  Actually there were several more plants there - I may try to harvest a few seeds again, as I do not know how long lived my garden plants will be.

Sorry this is not a great shot, I am about a week too late.  However, this is a fringed gentian, but the blossoms are not open.  This specimen is from a small clump in a forest glade (again not my property).  I have only been able to discover a single flower of this genus on my own property this year, right on my front lawn (yes I carefully cut around it).

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.


  1. I love your enthusiasm for the truly finer things in life.

  2. It's great that you are helping to preserve this lovely plant. Congratulations on being able to start some from seed. Because they are rare, the seed must be difficult to germinate and keep growing on. Hope your plants survive for many years to come.

  3. thank you for your kind comments

  4. I have never heard of or seen this plant before now. I will look it up in my wild plants book at home and see if I can find it. It is a mysterious looking set of blooms.

  5. Lucky you! What a beautiful flower it has.

  6. A real treasure to have so beautiful.


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