- For the cultivated flower known as a Gentian or Tulip Gentian see Eustoma. For the saint of this name, see Victoricus, Fuscian, and Gentian.
This is a cosmopolitan genus, occurring in alpine habitats of temperate regions of Asia, Europe and the Americas. Some species also occur in northwest Africa, eastern Australia and New Zealand. They consist of annual, biennial and perennial plants. Some are evergreen, others are not.
Their leaves are arranged in an opposite way. Most of them belong to a basal rosette. Gentians have trumpet-shaped flowers which are usually deep blue or azure, but may vary from white, creamy and yellow to red. Blue-flowered species predominate in the Northern Hemisphere, and red in the Andes; white-flowered species are scattered but dominate in New Zealand. These terminal tubular flowers are mostly pentamerous, i.e. with 5 corolla lobes (petals), and 5 sepals, but 4-7 in some species. The style is rather short or absent. The corolla shows folds (= plicae) between the lobes. The ovary is mostly sessile and has nectary glands.
Gentians are fully hardy and like full sun or partial shade, and neutral to acid soil that is rich in humus and well drained. They are popular in rock gardens.
According to Pliny the Elder, Gentian is an eponym of Gentius (180-168 BC), the King of Illyria, said to have discovered its healing properties. Some species are of medicinal use and their roots were harvested for the manufacture of tonic liquor, for instance in France "Suze" or similar liquors. Gentian is also used as a flavouring, for example in bitters, and the soft drink "Moxie" which contains "Gentian Root Extractives".
- Lena Struwe (Editor), Victor A. Albert (Editor), Gentianaceae , Cambridge University Press, 2002; ISBN 0521809991
- Gentian Research Network
- Medical Benefits of Gentian
Gentian in Culture
- Gentian is mentioned in the ninth of Rainer Maria Rilke's Duino Elegies.
- "Bavarian Gentians" is the name of a poem by D. H. Lawrence.
- It is mentioned multiple times in Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. Also, a character in the book is named Enzian, which is the German term for Gentian.
- Gentian root is a major flavor component in New England's regionally popular soft drink Moxie.
- Poet William Cullen Bryant has a poem entitled "To the Fringed Gentian."