This lovely Gentian has been considered one of the choicest of American wild flowers. There is never any certainty of finding it from year to year, because it does not establish itself permanently in any particular spot or locality. It has a general liking for low, moist woods and meadows, and is a late bloomer, coming into flower during September and October: It is rather rare in the vicinity of dense communities, and is likely to become even more so than the Trailing Arbutus, as it is extremely difficult to cultivate. This genera has been dedicated to Gentius, King of Ancient Illyria, who is said to have discovered its medicinal qualities. This species has been proposed as our national flower, and it has also been immortalized in our literature since Bryant wrote:
FRINGED GENTIAN. Gentiana crinita.
"Thou waitest late and cometh alone, When woods are bare and birds are flown, And frosts and shortening days portend The aged year is near his end."
Artists consider that the blue of the Gentian is the nearest approach to the colour of the sky. The leafy, angled, and usually branching stalk is smooth and grooved, and grows annually from one to three feet high. The clasping leaves have a heart-shaped base and a long, tapering point. They are thin and toothless and are set upon the stalk in alternating, opposite pairs. There is something classical about the deep, vase-shaped corolla of the erect, bright blue flowers. They are mostly four-parted, and about two inches high. The four rounded and spreading lobes are finely fringed around the top edge, and are sensitive to the sunlight. They open and close with a twisting gesture at night, or on dull days. Each of the four-pointed parts of the calyx is ridged. The solitary flowers are borne on the tips of long and short branches, several of which are so closely parallel as to form a loose, upright group. They are found from Quebec to Minnesota, and south to Georgia and Iowa.