GENTIAN FAMILY - Gentianaceae: Bitter-bloom; Rose Pink; Square-stemmed Sabbatia; Rosy Centaury
Flowers--Clear rose pink, with greenish star in centre, rarely white, fragrant, 1-1/2 in. broad or less, usually solitary on long peduncles at ends of branches. Calyx lobes very narrow; corolla of 5 rounded segments; stamens 5; style 2-cleft. Stem: Sharply 4-angled, 2 to 3 ft. high, with opposite branches, leafy. Leaves: Opposite, 5-nerved, oval tapering at tip, and clasping stem by broad base.
Preferred Habitat--Rich soil, meadows, thickets.
Distribution--New York to Florida, westward to Ontario, Michigan, and Indian Territory.
During the drought of midsummer the lovely Rose Pink blooms inland with cheerful readiness to adapt itself to harder conditions than most of its moisture-loving kin will tolerate; but it may be noticed that although we may often-times find it growing in dry soil, it never spreads in such luxuriant clusters as when the roots are struck beside meadow runnels and ditches. Probably the plant would be commoner than it is about populous Eastern districts were it not so much sought by herb-gatherers for use as a tonic medicine.
It was the Centaurea, represented here by the blue Ragged Sailor of
gardens, and not our Centaury, a distinctly American group of plants,
which, Ovid tells us, cured a wound in the foot of the Centaur Chiron,
made by an arrow hurled by Hercules.
Three exquisite members of the Sabbatia tribe keep close to the Atlantic Coast in salt meadows and marshes, along the borders of brackish rivers, and very rarely in the sand at the edges of fresh-water ponds a little way inland. From Maine to Florida they range, and less frequently are met along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico so far as Louisiana. How bright and dainty they are! Whole meadows are radiant with their blushing loveliness. Probably if they consented to live far away from the sea, they would lose some of the deep, clear pink from out their lovely petals, since all flowers show a tendency to brighten their colors as they approach the coast. In England some of the same wild flowers we have here are far deeper-hued, owing, no doubt, to the fact that they live on a sea-girt, moisture-laden island, and also that the sun never scorches and blanches at the far north as it does in the United States.
The Sea or Marsh Pink or Rose of Plymouth (S. stellaris), whose graceful alternate branching stem attains a height of two feet only under most favorable conditions, from July to September opens a succession of pink flowers that often fade to white. The yellow eye is bordered with carmine. They measure about one inch across, and are usually solitary at the ends of branches, or else sway on slender peduncles from the axils. The upper leaves are narrow and bract-like; those lower down gradually widen as they approach the root.