Herbs often bitter, usually glabrous. Leaves opposite and entire without stipules. Flowers in terminal, dichotomous cymes or panicles, with a single flower in each fork, or solitary. Calyx 4-8 toothed. Corolla regular, 4-8 lobed. Stamens 4-8 and alternating with the corolla lobes. Capsule opening in 2 valves with many seeds.

A rather large family, extending nearly all over the world, but chiefly in temperate or mountain regions.

Swertia L. Swertia Perennis L

Glabrous. Stem erect, 6-12 inches high, 4-edged, simple below and bearing an elongated raceme. Leaves crowded at base of stem, the upper ones opposite, entire, lanceolate, sessile; lower ones elliptical, running into the leaf-stalk. Angles of flower-stalk narrowly winged. Calyx-teeth and corolla segments lanceolate, acuminate. Flowers dark, dingy purple.

Boggy Alpine meadows and peat mosses and other wet places on Alpine pastures; 3000-6800 feet; very local. July, August.


Carpathians; Riesengebirge; Eastern, Central, and Western Alps; Jura, Black Forest; North German plain, Erzgebirge, Pyrenees, Central France, Caucasus.

Gentiana L

Leaves opposite, entire. Flowers usually blue, but also purple, mauve, yellow, and nearly white, solitary or in terminal cymes. Calyx tubular, often angled, with 5 or rarely 4 lobes. Corolla with a narrow campanulate tube and spreading limb divided into 5 or rarely 4 lobes, and occasionally 5 additional ones in the angles. Style remaining attached to the capsule after the flower fades. Stigmas 2. Capsule 1-celled and 2-valved.

A large genus, spread over the northern hemisphere, especially in the mountains, and in the higher ranges of both New and Old Worlds, penetrating into the tropics.

Gentiana Lutea L. Great Yellow Gentian

Glabrous. Stem erect, stout, 2-4 feet high. Root cylindrical, thick, ringed. Leaves large, elliptical, strongly 5-nerved, the lowermost stalked, channelled; stem-leaves cordate, half-clasping. Flowers yellow with brown spots, in dense clusters or whorls, corolla 5-cleft nearly to the base, the divisions being lanceolate, acuminate. Calyx sheathing, deeply divided on one side. Root used as a tonic.

Grassy Alpine and sub-alpine pastures, descending to 800 metres in the Jura. Often in colonies. July to September.


Carpathians, Alps, Vosges, Jura, Black Forest; Central and Southern Europe; Asia Minor.

Gentiana Punctata L.

Stem about 1 foot high, erect, robust. Stem-leaves oval or lanceolate sessile, nerved, the lower ones stalked. Flowers yellowish, spotted with purple, brown, or grey, sessile in terminal clusters. Corolla 6-cleft, the lobes a quarter the length of the tube, throat naked. Calyx campanulate with erect, lanceolate, unequal teeth.

1 In the Linnaean Herbarium (at Burlington House) the specimen of G. punctata is G. pannonica Freyn, according to Prof. Ascherson.

Grassy places in the Alps and sub-Alps, especially on siliceous soil. July, August.


Carpathians, Eastern, Central, and Western Alps, Silesia, Erzgebirge, Bavaria, Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria.