Definitions

bottle-gentian

Gentian

[jen-shuhn]
Gentiana is a genus of flowering plants belonging to the Gentian family (Gentianaceae), tribe Gentianeae and monophyletic subtribe Gentianinae. This a large genus, with about 400 species.

This is a cosmopolitan genus, occurring in alpine habitats of temperate regions of Asia, Europe and the Americas. Some species also occur in northwest Africa, eastern Australia and New Zealand. They consist of annual, biennial and perennial plants. Some are evergreen, others are not.

Gentians have opposite leaves that are sometimes arranged in a basal rosette, and trumpet-shaped flowers that are usually deep blue or azure, but may vary from white, creamy and yellow to red. Many species also show considerable polymorphism with respect to flower color. Typically, blue-flowered species predominate in the Northern Hemisphere, with red-flowered species dominant in the Andes (where bird pollination is probably more heavily favored by natural selection). White-flowered species are scattered throughout the range of the genus but dominate in New Zealand. All gentian species have terminal tubular flowers and most are pentamerous, i.e. with 5 corolla lobes (petals), and 5 sepals, but 4-7 in some species. The style is rather short or absent. The corolla shows folds (= plicae) between the lobes. The ovary is mostly sessile and has nectary glands.

Many gentians are difficult to grow outside their wild habitat, but several species are available in cultivation. Gentians are fully hardy and like full sun or partial shade, and neutral to acid soil that is rich in humus and well drained. They are popular in rock gardens.

According to Pliny the Elder, Gentian is an eponym of Gentius (180-168 BC), the King of Illyria, said to have discovered its healing properties. Some species are of medicinal use and their roots were harvested for the manufacture of tonic liquor, for instance in France "Suze" or similar liquors. Gentian is also used as a flavouring, for example in bitters, and the soft drink "Moxie" which contains "Gentian Root Extractives".

Species

  • Gentiana nubigena
  • Gentiana nutans ('Tundra Gentian')
  • Gentiana ochroleuca
  • Gentiana olivieri
  • Gentiana ornata
  • Gentiana pannonica ('Brown Gentian')
  • Gentiana paradoxa
  • Gentiana parryi ('Parry's Gentian')
  • Gentiana patula
  • Gentiana pennelliana ('Wiregrass Gentian')
  • Gentiana phyllocalyx
  • Gentiana platypetala ('Broadpetal Gentian')
  • Gentiana plurisetosa ('Bristly Gentian')
  • Gentiana pneumonanthe ('Marsh Gentian')
  • Gentiana prolata
  • Gentiana prostrata ('Pygmy Gentian')
  • Gentiana przewalskii
  • Gentiana pterocalyx
  • Gentiana puberulenta ('Downy Gentian')
  • Gentiana pumila
  • Gentiana punctata ('Spotted Gentian')
  • Gentiana purpurea ('Purple Gentian')
  • Gentiana pyrenaica
  • Gentiana quadrifolia
  • Gentiana rigescens
  • Gentiana rostanii
  • Gentiana rubricaulis ('Closed Gentian')
  • Gentiana saponaria ('Harvestbells Gentian')
  • Gentiana saxosa
  • Gentiana scabra
  • Gentiana scarlatina
  • Gentiana sceptrum ('King's scepter Gentian')
  • Gentiana septemfida ('Crested Gentian')
  • Gentiana setigera ('Mendocino Gentian')
  • Gentiana setulifolia
  • Gentiana sikkimensis
  • Gentiana sikokiana
  • Gentiana sino-ornata
  • Gentiana siphonantha
  • Gentiana speciosa
  • Gentiana squarrosa
  • Gentiana stictantha
  • Gentiana stragulata
  • Gentiana straminea
  • Gentiana tenuifolia
  • Gentiana terglouensis ('Triglav Gentian')
  • Gentiana ternifolia
  • Gentiana tianshanica ('Tienshan Gentian')
  • Gentiana trichotoma
  • Gentiana triflora
  • Gentiana trinervis
  • Gentiana tubiflora
  • Gentiana utriculosa ('Bladder Gentian')
  • Gentiana veitchiorum
  • Gentiana venusta
  • Gentiana verna ('Spring Gentian')
  • Gentiana villosa ('Striped Gentian')
  • Gentiana waltonii
  • Gentiana wutaiensis
  • Gentiana yakushimensis
  • Gentiana zollingeri
  • thumb| none|Bottle Gentian (Gentiana clausa)

    References

    Gentian in Culture

    • Gentian roots from the Auvergne region of France are the basis for Gentiane, an apéritif (liqueur). Varieties include Suze, created since 1795, at the distillerie Rousseau, Laurens et Moureaux à Maisons-Alfort; Ambroise Labounoux's La Salers, made since 1885 at the Distillerie de la Salers; and L´Avèze, created in 1929 in Auvergne. Picon, made of equal parts gentian root and Cinchona root with sugar syrup and caramel was created by Gaétan Picon, in 1837, when he was stationed in Algeria with the French army. He returned to France in 1871 bringing with him the "first African apéritif."
    • Gentian is mentioned in the ninth of Rainer Maria Rilke's Duino Elegies.
    • "Gentian" is the title of a short story by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman.
    • "Bavarian Gentians" is the name of a poem by D. H. Lawrence.
    • It is mentioned multiple times in Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. Also, a character in the book is named Enzian, which is the German term for Gentian.
    • Gentian root is a major flavor component in New England's regionally popular soft drink Moxie.
    • Poet William Cullen Bryant has a poem entitled "To the Fringed Gentian."
    • Used in Queen's University Engineering traditions.
    • The Gentian is referenced in Emily Dickinson's poem number 442: "God made a little Gentian-// It tried- to be a Rose-"
    • A character in the book The Secret History of The Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig uses the name "The Purple Gentian" as his name while doing good deeds to prevent the invasion of England by Napoleon's army.

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