This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
I. Autumn Gentian (Gentiana Amarella, L.). 2. Field Gentian (Gentiana campestris, L. 3. Wild Thyme (Thymus Serpyllum, L.). 4. Clary (Salvia Verbenaca, L.).
One of the typical upland plants, the autumnal Gentian delights in the free and open nature of dry pastures on the hill-side, or the very summits of the hills in most parts of the country where Field Plough man's Spikenard, Musk Mallow, and many other plants adorn the hills, and where Wild Thyme scatters its odour to the breezes far and wide.
Photo. Flatters & Garnett - Autumn Gentian (Gentiana Amarella, L.)
The stems are erect, simple below, branched above. The leaves are lance-shaped and hold water absorbed by club-shaped hairs. The branches are shorter than the joints. The plant is many-flowered. The sap is bitter and this may preserve the flower from being browsed by animals.
The flowers are purplish-blue, opening in the sun, and have a purplish stalk. The corolla is salver-shaped, 5-cleft, bearded, with lance-shaped segments, fringed in the throat. The stamens lie in the tube-forming ridges, and thus make 4 or 5 tubes.
This Gentian is about 6 in. in height. It is in flower between August and September. The plant is perennial and propagated by seeds.
The flowers are homogamous, anthers and pistil ripening together, but the style is longer than the anthers, so that an insect touches the stigma first. The honey, accessible to humble bees and Lepidoptera, is secreted by five green, fleshy glands at the base of the corolla or ovary, alternate with the stamens. The honey is protected from rain by the closing of the flower in dull weather. Long erect hairs inside the corolla protect the honey from flies where the tube and limb meet. The tube also contracts. The former is 16-18 mm. long, and 6 mm. wide, allowing an insect to insert its whole head and reach the honey with a proboscis of 10-12 mm. The anthers open when the flower opens, and turn the pollen-bearing side (turned outside in bud) inwards or upwards, so that the bee's head touches it. The style has two terminal stigmatic lobes, already expanded beyond the anthers and papillose. When insects visit the flower it cannot be self-pollinated, as if the insect touches the stigma first it cross-pollinates the plant. After the pollen is shed the anthers are level with the anther-stalks and close to the style. Autumn Gentian is visited by a humble bee, Bombus silvarum.
The capsule splits up, and breaks up into parts containing numerous seeds, which are dispersed around the parent plant.
Like other heath-plants this Gentian is a humus-loving plant, and requires a humus soil.
A cluster-cup fungus, Puccinia gentianae, attacks the leaves.
Gentiana, Pliny, is derived from Gentius, King of Illyria, who is said to have first discovered it. Amarella, Linnaeus, is from amarus, bitter.
Baldemoyne, Baldmoney, Bitterwort, Feld-wood, Felwort, Field Wort, are some of its names. Coles says of Felwort that it is a "mongrel word mixed of Latine and English together". The roots are bitter, used as an astringent. The Gentians are cultivated and grow in light, but rich, soil.
Essential Specific Characters:210. Gentiana Amarella, L. - Stem erect, quadrangular, purple, branched above, leaves ovate, lanceolate, sessile, flower purple, calyx lobes subequal, 5, corolla salver-shaped, fringed.