Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
The beautiful closed or "bottle" gentian is one of our showiest late-season flowers. The plant is restricted to the eastern half of North Dakota, but is generally distributed from Saskatchewan to Quebec and southward to Georgia and Arkansas.
A perennial, closed gentian is at home in rich low prairies, meadows, and woodland openings. Heavy yellow roots penetrate deeply underground. Plants attain a height of two feet on favorable sites. Pairs of 1 to 3-inch-long leaves are found along the full length of the rather stout stems. Amid the upper pairs of leaves appear clusters of up to a dozen blue flowers. Each flower has a pleated appearance and is about 1 1/2 inches long. The flowers appear closed due to inward-projecting lobes at the tops of the united petals.
Look for closed gentian in September and sometimes well into October. This plant does best in idle or lightly grazed situations in the grasslands. Amerindians in Wisconsin used the roots for snakebite; others have employed the root extract as a tonic bitter used to promote the appetite and stimulate digestion.
The gentian family (Gentianaceae) derives its name from King Gentius of Illyria who, according to Pliny, discovered the medicinal virtues of these plants. The species was first described for science by the German botanist Professor August Grisebach (1814-1879), who dedicated the specific epithet to Henry Andrews (1794-1830), an eminent English botanical artist and engraver.