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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

GIF -- species photo

Ovalleaf Fringed Gentian (Gentianopsis crinita)


The northern half of North Dakota east of the Missouri River is home to the ovalleaf fringed gentian. Elsewhere, the species ranges from Quebec to Manitoba, south to Iowa, and southeast along the mountains to Georgia.

This gentian is an annual or biennial herb up to two feet tall. Ovate, opposite leaves about two inches long and an inch wide clasp the stem. The blue-to-whitish flowers are about two inches long and solitary on stalks (peduncles) up to four inches long. The four flower petals have spreading, fringed lobes. At maturity, beaked, ellipsoidal capsules fill with minute seeds.

Look for ovalleaf fringed gentian during September and October in low, moist native grassland. I have no information on the effects of livestock grazing or burning on this relatively rare plant. The bitter extract of many of the gentians was formerly used to stimulate and improve the appetite but I could find no specific references to any economic uses for the species discussed here.

The gentian family (Gentianaceae) and the genus Gentianopsis ("aspect of Gentian") derive their names from Gentius, Kinq of Illyria who, accordinq to Pliny, discovered the medicinal virtues of these plants. The specific name crinita means "having long hairs or fringe" in botanical Latin. Ovalleaf fringed gentian was first described for science under a different genus by Joseph Aloys von Froelich (1766-1841). Later, the plant was placed in its currently accepted taxonomic position by the Chinese gentian expert Yu-Chuan Ma (1916-?) of the University of Inner Mongolia.


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