DESCRIPTION

The closed gentian usually grows to the height of 1.5 to 2 feet high. The stem leaves on the gentian grow to about 2-3 inches and each flower petal is 1.5 inches long. (1) The flowers of the gentian are shaped like a bottle. Each of the flowers is a very intense blue with white on the outside. The gentians are the flowers that provide the best blue in gardens. Each closed gentian flower has up to five flower buds on
it.


David Lambeth

HABITAT AND LOCATION

The closed gentian is one of the hardest flowers to come upon. They are usually found scattered throughout most of the tall grass region in mesic to moist prairies, seepage areas, and fens. (2) The closed gentian is mainly found in North America on the prairie.

CARE AND HARMS

The closed gentian takes a few years to actually start poking its head out of the ground. You will find that in the first year there will only be about one leaf that actually starts sprouting.
When planting the closed gentian there are a few rules that you need to follow so that the plant will grow successfully. The closed gentian may be the most difficult flower to grow since they need perfect drainage and require lime-free soil. (4) The closed gentian needs to be planted in a moist area, like along a river bank or by a meadow.
You will need to watch the sun when trying to grow this flower because if the sun is to hot you will need to provide shade, whereasif the summers are damp and cool you can keep the flowers in the sun.
Once the closed gentian is plantedthey may need to be moved if they are not growing. Many of the closed gentians are grown as ornamentals in rock gardens.
Pests and disease are something else that could harm the flower. You may find rust spots on the flower, which are common and snails and slugs may also cause damage. (1)

INTERESTING FACTS

One of the most interesting things about the closed gentian is that it does not open, ever, hence the name closed gentian. The flowers appear more as buds than flowers in bloom. The only animal that can get into the flower is a bee that is very strong and persistant. The bees are then able to carry the pollen to another plant.
Something that makes the closed gentian very rare around here is the fact that it blooms at a very odd time when we think that most plants are going to sleep for the fall and winter. The closed gentian blooms in late August and continues past the frost. So if you happen to be walking along a meadow or in the prairie during the fall you just may happen to cross one of these brilliant blue flowers.
The name gentian andrewsii also comes from a very odd place. The word gentian is named for the ancient King Gentius of Illyria, who supposedly discovered the medicinal properties of gentians but later found out that it was not true. Andrewsii was named in honor of Henry C. Andrews, an English botanical artist and engraver of the early 19th century. (6)

PRAIRIE USES

There have been many uses of the closed gentian on the prairie and in different parts of the world. Some of its useswere among the native people for healing and it was also used in drinks.
The Meskwaki and the Potawatomi used the closed gentian to treat snakebites. Some of the women in the tribes ate a piece of the root as a treatment for caked breasts. The Catawba boiled roots in water and used the liquid to treat backaches.
In Switzerland, a potent alcoholic beverage called gentiane is fermented from the roots of a related species called, G. lutea. The poorer people of Sweden uses a gentian in place of hops to brew their ale. (6)

MY STORY

The reason that I picked the closed gentian was because when I look at it I am reminded of peace and calm. When I first saw the picture of the flower I knew right away that I had to use it. The color just jumped right out at me. Like Glinda said it picked me, I didn't pick it. Another reason that I like this flower so much is because it is independent and very strong. The closed gentian grows at a time of year when everything else is dying. This is the last flower that you will see growing on the prairie during the early and late fall.Next time you are walkingin the prairie and you happen to come across a flower of brilliant blues and purples, don't pick it just let it grow. This flower is too beautiful to be picked. The closed gentian is the last flower to go to sleep so it needs all the time it can to grow and become more beautiful. I hope that you will enjoy this flower as much as I have and come to understand what it takes to have such an unusual andbrilliant flower grow.
-Susan


David Lambeth

REFERENCES

1. Brickel, Christopher. The American Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. 1996.
2. Indiana Wildflowers. www.xtasy.lib.indiana.edu/dliup1/closgent.html
3. Brnezel, Kathleen. N. Western Garden Book. 2001.  Sunset Editors.
4. Learnging Network. Gentian
5. Runkel Sylvan T. and Roosa Dean M. Wild flowersof the tallgrass prairie: The upper midwest. 1989, Iowa State University Press.