Solitary Gentian (Gentiana Porphyrio) is a pretty little species growing in moist places from southern N. J. to Fla. The simple, slender stem ranges in height from 6 to 15 inches and bears at the summit a solitary, erect, bell-shaped flower, of a light ultramarine blue color; the five, spreading lobes are notched at their bases. The flower is very large compared to the stem and leaves of the plant it grows upon; the blossom measures from 2 to 2 1-2 inches long, which is about the length of linear leaves that are oppositely set on the stem.
Ague-Weed (Gentiana Quinquefolia) is a smaller and more common Gentian. It grows on moist hillsides from Me. to 111. and southwards. It is an annual with a ridged, four-sided stem growing 8 to 22 inches high. The leaves are stiff, pointed and slightly clasping at their bases. The violet blue flowers are clustered at the end of the stem usually in fives, although sometimes we may find from two to seven in a group. The five lobes have sharp bristle-like points. All the Gentians have bitter juices that are used medicinally.
Closed Gentian; Bottle Gentian. Gentiana Andrewsii
Closed Gentian; Bottle Gentian (Gentiana Andrewsii) is the most abundant of all Gentians. It is handsome but lacks the subtle beauty of the Fringed Gentian, the beauty that leads one to tramp miles in quest of it, and that, in time, is sure to exterminate a species. Again, the present species is a perennial and such plants have a tremendous advantage in the struggle for existence, over those whose roots last but a year and then die. The flowers of the Closed Gentian are as peculiar in their way as those of the Fringed are in theirs. It is remarkable because the five parts of the corolla never spread, the flower remains closed. The flowers are cross-fertilized by the common bumblebee. He knows there is a supply of nectar at the bottom of each blossom and he has the wits and the strength to get at it. Slowly, but surely, he is able to force the closed lobes apart until his body is half concealed in the "bottle", and he is able to reach the bottom. As he leaves the flower he is certain to scrap off quantities of pollen on his head and almost sure to leave some of it on the receptive stigma of the next flower visited.
The stem is smooth and simple; it grows from 1 to 2 feet high. The leaves are rather large, ovate-pointed and narrowed into very short clasping stems. The flowers grow in terminal clusters, set in the axils of the last pairs of leaves. They are deep, bright blue at the outer ends and shade to nearly white at the bases. The younger flowers, those that have not matured or had the nectar drained from their bases, are lighter colored than the old flowers. The distinction between the two is very evident to the bees that visit them, for they never make the mistake of entering a blossom that has already been drained. Closed gentian grows in moist places, often along brooks, from Me. to Manitoba and southwards.