Signs of Autumn

Gentians are one of the signs of the coming autumn. When we visited Becky’s Fen, a private preserve, last week, our favorite gentian species (Fringed Gentian) were mostly setting seeds but the Bottle Gentians (Gentiana andrewsii) were fresh and lovely. Though not as extravagantly fringed at the Fringed Gentian, the Bottle Gentian has tiny fringes at the end of corolla that hold the blossom together. Bumblebees have to work to get in to pollinate the blossoms.

There are over 400 species of gentian worldwide. They live in all sorts of habitats. Many are found in alpine regions. The species here in the Upper Midwest often like wet prairies and woodlands, fens. floodplains and marshes. Bottle Gentians have no scent while many other species do.

One species that likes rich prairie soil is the Cream Gentian (Gentiana alba). We have some in our yard. This lovely example was entangled by a slender vine. When Linda was trying to remove the vine, the stem snapped off. It became a tabletop subject and then the bouquet on the dining table where it still is slowly drying in its original size and shape. The leaves are now a darker green and the blossoms a soft tan – still lovely.

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