Bottle Gentians

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Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14
Bottle Gentians

There are a number of native Gentiana species that qualify as "bottle" gentians, where the flowers barely open or don't appear to open at all.

After all of the heat and drought this 2010 summer in New England can dish out, I've observed the slow development of Gentiana clausa alba, unperturbed by the drought, surprising when this bottle gentian is reportedly found in moist locations and stream-sides. The foliage remained dark green, not showing any sign of scorching as so many of my plants have this season. Last year I received a seedling plant from George Newman who specializes in native North American plants, and I believe this rare white form was from seed collected in New Hampshire... I'll have to ask George, he has an encyclopedic memory with details of all the plants in his fascinating garden. Fascinating too, is that the flower bracts on G. clausa appear well before the buds, making an intriguing and curious looking posy nested on top of the enlarged terminal leaves. I like that the flowers are tinged green at the apex. I include some links showing other colors forms, the more typical blues and purples. My plant is 12" (30 cm) in flower.

Gentiana clausa - bottle gentian, blind gentian, closed gentian
http://plants.usda.gov/java/largeImage?imageID=gecl_001_ahp.tif
http://www.northcreeknurseries.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/plants.plantDeta...
http://2bnthewild.com/plants/H82.htm
http://www.photographersdirect.com/buyers/stockphoto.asp?imageid=1806885
http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/aYpcyQ-JiwqdnhvJcJgyVQ
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sa_young/2814721801/

USDA plant profile & distribution map
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=GECL

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

How timely!  Gentiana clausa is in bloom here too, from seed 3(?) years ago... not native to this area, as you can see in Mark's USDA link, but a nice one for some fall colour.

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Skulski wrote:

How timely!  Gentiana clausa is in bloom here too, from seed 3(?) years ago... not native to this area, as you can see in Mark's USDA link, but a nice one for some fall colour.

Nice to see the blue complement to the white G. clausa, such attractive plants.

There are some very similar "bottle gentians", and quite honestly I don't know how to tell them apart, in particular, how does one tell Gentiana clausa apart from G. andrewsii, and from G. saponaria?  My Peterson guide "A Field Guide to Wildflowers" gives some very subtle differences in the flower structure of the three species.  And then there are two other bottle types, G. alba, and G. linearis, which are more readily distinguishable.  Gentiana quinquefolia is also listed as a bottle type, but in this species the flowers do open noticeably.

G. linearis photos:
http://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?query_src=photos_index&where...

G. alba photos:
http://wisplants.uwsp.edu/scripts/detail.asp?SpCode=GENALB

Are there good books or keys to these confusingly similar N. American bottle gentians?

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Hoy
Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

Interesting plants, but if they don't open how are they pollinated? Are they cleistogamous?
The similar plant here, G. purpurea, opens a little in warm weather and flies visit frequently.

Trond
Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Hoy wrote:

Interesting plants, but if they don't open how are they pollinated? Are they cleistogamous?
The similar plant here, G. purpurea, opens a little in warm weather and flies visit frequently.

Trond, I've been admiring Gentiana purpurea on some of the travelogue types of posts on SRGC, certainly qualifies as a bottle gentian, and an imposing handsome one at that.  If you click on the North Creek Nurseries link in my first post above, it explains how the flowers of G. clausa are pollinated by large bees that are able to muscle their way in.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

McDonough wrote:

There are some very similar "bottle gentians", and quite honestly I don't know how to tell them apart...

Good point!  I assume the plant I showed is G. clausa... I think that's what the seed packet claimed, but is it?  I don't know for sure. 
It's odd that we can use the internet to look up full descriptions of many exotic Asian plants, but that it's hard to find the same detail on North American flora.

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Boland
Boland's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-09-25

China has its counterpart bottles...Gentiana triflora is one and the other is Gentiana uchiyamae, shown here (at least that what the seeds came as).  It also opens a little during realyy sunny, warm days.  It is blooming right now.

Todd Boland
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
Zone 5b
1800 mm precipitation per year

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Todd, Gentiana uchiyamae is very nice, I do like these bottle gentians.

Back to Gentiana clausa, what separates it from G. andrewsii, is that the petals, which are joined together near the top, have petals tips that are free (or above) of the connecting membrane.  In the photo I upload, where I stretch the pleated petals open, you can see that the petals tips are well above the fringed connecting membrane.  In G. andrewsii, the fringed or toothed connecting membrane is equal or above the petal tips.

Gentiana saponaria has similar characterics as G. clausa, with the petal tips well demarcated above the fringed connecting membrane, so to tell these two apart, G. saponaria has much more erect upright sepals, whereas on G. clausa, the sepals stand horizontally or are otherwise reflexed (in my photo, you can see the reflexed or horizontally orientated sepals).

Open up the flower on G. clausa alba, and using a small stick to open the flower, there was lots of pollen, so I manually pollinated the flowers in case there were no bees squeezing into the flowers, but this made me think of hybridization potential :D

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

So, what would you say I have here then? 

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Howey
Title: Guest
Joined: 2010-05-17

I think what I have growing in the backyard is G. clausa alba - a closed white gentian.  As for pollination, Hoy, I believe bumble bees do the job.  Have frequently watched them wiggle into the flower and then work rather noisily inside before pushing their way back out.  Bumble bees seem to be able to "bumble" in where honey bees fear to tread.  Fran

Boland
Boland's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-09-25

I was in Ontario last weekend speaking to the Ottawa Valley and Southern Ontario Rock Garden Societies.  Wjile in Ottawa I was taken to a meadow where bottle gentians, Gentiana andrewsii, where blooming.  I was surprised thye were more purple than blue.  The one I grew years ago must have been G. clausa as mine was deep blue.

Todd Boland
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
Zone 5b
1800 mm precipitation per year

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