Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Unique Fall Flower

We have to wait all year to see one of the most unusual and beautiful flowers around: the blue gentian. The one native to my area, and I even have one naturally in my woods, is called harvestbells or soapwort gentian (Gentiana saponaria). One of five gentians native to Georgia, this one is the most widely distributed species.

Gentiana saponaria
According to Gentians of the Eastern United States, this species is found in moist woodlands and along mature streams and trails. In my experiences on plant rescues in the metro Atlanta area, we most often do find it along or near streams. We can’t always rescue it because streams are usually protected during development.

The times we have been able to do so, the plants usually do quite well. I have one that I’ve relocated to a moist area that is protected from deer, and it has several blooming stems each year. The one in my woods doesn’t get as much sun so it only has one stem with 2-3 flowers. It is just barely hanging onto the edge of the bank these days after several gully washers over the years. I should move it.

Gentiana saponaria
Recently a friend mentioned that one of the plants that she planted into a demonstration garden (after rescuing it) was having a great year. I went to take some pictures of it and was able to capture a bumble bee pollinating the flowers. Click on this link to see the video that I took; a second video on the one at my house is here and you can hear the buzzing sound she makes. The smaller bumble bees are able to squeeze into the flower to get pollen and nectar. I also noticed a large carpenter bee going after the outside base of the flower since it was too big to get inside (this is called nectar robbing since the bee performs no pollination services for the nectar).

Look for these beautiful flowers in the late summer and fall. Gentians grow in a variety of habitats so you might be surprised where you find them. Most of them are a beautiful blue, but there is a white-flowering species as well.

You can read about another gentian species that I wrote about on a hiking trip in NC. And you can read about Sabatia - another flower that is related to gentian - but I doubt many of us would have realized that because it looks so different.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic photo, Ellen. Nature truly is remarkable--thanks for continually reminding us with your beautiful photography.