Sunday, November 19, 2023

Catesby's/Coastal Plain Gentian - Gentiana catesbyi

Catesby's gentian (Gentiana catesbyi) is a perennial herbaceous wildflower found throughout most of the Florida Panhandle in organic-rich moist to wet soils from moist pine savannas, moist hardwood hammocks and seepage slopes.  In these habitats it prefers partial shade.  It also occurs throughout much of the Southeast Coastal Plain from Mississippi north to the edge of the Piedmont in New Jersey.  

Like other members of this genus, Catesby's gentian dies back to the ground in late fall and reemerges again in spring.  By early summer the stems are 6-18 inches tall, but often droop a bit. The stems are unbranched and pubescent while the leaves are dark green and shiny.  They also are opposite each other on the stem, elliptical in shape and without teeth along the leaf margins.  Most are without petioles as is evidenced in the above photos.

Flowering occurs from late September into early November; towards the latter end of this period in Florida.  The deep blue flowers occur in terminal clusters of up to 6 blooms and the weight of these also causes them to droop a bit.  Flowers are sessile. The calyx is green in color, glabrous, with lobes longer than the tube. The corolla is funnelform and is dark to light blue in color. Some flowers are almost white. The corolla lobes part only slightly at the apex. The fruit is a capsule.  It is reported that hummingbirds are attracted to the flowers, but most have migrated south of the range of this plant by blooming time.  This species is sometimes offered for sale by native nurseries north of Florida.  I have not tried to grow it in any of my landscapes. 

These photos were taken by my friend Floyd Griffith and used by permission.

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