Plant of the Week
Mendocino gentian (Gentiana setigera A. Gray)
By Christine McCullough
Gentiana setigera is a member of the Gentianaceae Family. The genus Gentiana has around 300 species and it was named after Gentius, king of ancient Illyria, who may have found medicinal value in the plants. The range of Gentiana setigera is Northwestern California and Southwestern Oregon and it is to be found in serpentine wet meadows from around 500 to 1100 meters in elevation. G. setigera is a rare plant that is threatened by wetland alteration, mining, and collection. It is often found in association with Darlingtonia californica wetlands.
Darlingtonia wetlands reach their greatest extent on serpentine areas of the Klamath and Siskiyou mountains. They are habitat for many other rare plants such as Hastingia bracteosa var. atropurpurea and Viola primilifolia var. occidentalis. In Darlingtonia wetlands the presence of G. setigera is correlated with high water flows, high grass and sedge cover, low shrub and tree cover, fine textured soils and low to moderate slopes.
G. setigera is a perennial dicot whose flowering stems, usually at least 20 cm long, arise from below a rosette of basal leaves. The stems are decumbent which means that the plant generally is lying flat but the tips curve upwards. The corolla and calyx are 5-parted and the inner surface of the corolla is a stunning deep blue. The outer surface is tinged with green. When it is in the bud stage, the corolla lobes overlap one another and have a slight twist. The corolla lobes are pointed at the tip and the sinus appendages in between the lobes are divided into 2-3 threadlike parts. The inner corolla is generally spotted and these spots help attract pollinators. The leaves are opposite and sessile as in all members of the gentian family. Its blooming period is July to September so you can enjoy the flowers after most other flowers are gone.