Common Name: Fringed Gentian
Scientific Name: Gentianopsis crinita
Habitat & Range: wet prairies & meadows, along streams and lakes
Bloom Time: late summer & fall
About: I see fringed gentian regularly up at Camp Lake Louise, but I only have pictures of it from odd years because…it’s a biennial! It takes two years to bloom and, like most wildflowers, should not be picked or dug up. Since 2013 is an odd year, I was on the lookout for them on our trip this year, but it’s been a cool summer and the late summer wildflowers were not in bloom yet when we were up there.
In addition, like many other wildflowers, it depends on a mycorrhizal relationship. In other words, it can only grow where certain bacteria or fungi are present in the soil, so if you decide you are the special exception and you’ll just go ahead and take that plant home thank you very much, it won’t grow in your yard anyway, so please leave it be and bring home some nice photos instead.
The fringed gentian has been the subject of some poetry over the years, including
God made a little gentian;
It tried to be a rose
And failed, and all the summer laughed.
But just before the snows
There came a purple creature
That ravished all the hill;
And summer hid her forehead,
And mockery was still.
The frosts were her condition;
The Tyrian would not come
Until the North evoked it.
“Creator! shall I bloom?”
William Cullen Bryant
Thou blossom bright with autumn dew,
And colored with the heaven’s own blue,
That openest when the quiet light
Succeeds the keen and frosty night.
Thou comest not when violets lean
O’er wandering brooks and springs unseen,
Or columbines, in purple dressed,
Nod o’er the ground-bird’s hidden nest.
Thou waitest late and com’st alone,
When woods are bare and birds are flown,
And frosts and shortening days portend
The aged year is near his end.
Then doth thy sweet and quiet eye
Look through its fringes to the sky,
Blue–blue–as if that sky let fall
A flower from its cerulean wall.
I would that thus, when I shall see
The hour of death draw near to me,
Hope, blossoming within my heart,
May look to heaven as I depart.
and Robert Frost
I felt the chill of the meadow underfoot,
But the sun overhead;
And snatches of verse and song of scenes like this
I sung or said.
I skirted the margin alders for miles and miles
In a sweeping line.
The day was the day by every flower that blooms,
But I saw no sign.
Yet further I went to be before the scythe,
For the grass was high;
Till I saw the path where the slender fox had come
And gone panting by.
Then at last and following him I found–
In the very hour
When the color flushed to the petals it must have been–
The far-sought flower.
There stood the purple spires with no breath of air
Nor headlong bee
To disturbe their perfect poise the livelong day
‘Neath the alder tree.
I only knelt and putting the boughs aside
Looked, or at most
Counted them all to the buds in the copse’s depth
That were pale as a ghost.
Then I arose and silently wandered home,
And I for one
Said that the fall might come and whirl of leaves,
For summer was done.
Reference: Wildflowers of Michigan by Stan Tekiela; Adventure Publications, 2000