Two Fall-Blooming Gentians of the Eastern United States

Fri, 2018-11-23 13:04 -- gsparrow
23 Nov
Uli lorimer
Gentiana autumnalis

I stIll remember exactly the time I became enchanted by gentians in the wild. I was fortunate enough to accompany a group of botanists in early October of 2007 on a visit to the Warren Grove National Guard Bombing Range in Warren Grove, New Jersey. The range encompasses nearly 10,000 acres of diverse habitat in the Pine Barrens, and laid out in front of me was a field of thousands of impossibly azure pine barren gentian (Gentiana autumnalis) blossoms. I turned to my companions and asked how such a scene was possible, in New Jersey no less? “The National Guard periodically drives their tanks over here and blows stuff up”, and the disturbance and accompanying fire regime helped to create the rich mosaic of species before my eyes. My jaw agape, I asked specifically how such a flower could be so blue having never before encountered its rival in my 15 years in public horticulture. “No flower is bluer than the gentian.” Returning to NYC that evening I felt inspired to find out more about this plant and was happy to find myself not alone in my amazement. Many poets have waxed over the particular joy of encountering gentians in the wild. William Cullen Bryant in his ode “To the Fringed Gentian” writes,

 

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