name = Gentian

image_width = 250px
image_caption = "Gentiana verna"
regnum = Plantae
divisio = Magnoliophyta
classis = Magnoliopsida
ordo = Gentianales
familia = Gentianaceae
genus = "Gentiana" L.
subdivision_ranks = Species
subdivision = See text.

"Gentiana" is a genus of flowering plants belonging to the Gentian family (Gentianaceae), tribe Gentianeae and monophyletic subtribe Gentianinae. This a large genus, with about 400 species.

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.

Gentians have opposite leaves that are sometimes arranged in a basal rosette, and trumpet-shaped flowers that are usually deep blue or azure, but may vary from white, creamy and yellow to red. Many species also show considerable polymorphism with respect to flower color. Typically, blue-flowered species predominate in the Northern Hemisphere, with red-flowered species dominant in the Andes (where bird pollination is probably more heavily favored by natural selection). White-flowered species are scattered throughout the range of the genus but dominate in New Zealand. All gentian species have terminal tubular flowers and most are 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.

Many gentians are difficult to grow outside their wild habitat, but several species are available in cultivation. 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 roots from the Auvergne region of France are the basis for "Gentiane", an apéritif (liqueur). Varieties include "Suze", created since 1795, at the "distillerie Rousseau, Laurens et Moureaux à Maisons-Alfort"; Ambroise Labounoux's "La Salers", made since 1885 at the "Distillerie de la Salers"; and "L´Avèze", created in 1929 in Auvergne. "Picon", made of equal parts gentian root and Cinchona root with sugar syrup and caramel was created by Gaétan Picon, in 1837, when he was stationed in Algeria with the French army. He returned to France in 1871 bringing with him the "first African apéritif."
*Gentian is mentioned in the ninth of Rainer Maria Rilke's Duino Elegies.
*"Gentian" is the title of a short story by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman.
*"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."
*Used in Queen's University Engineering traditions.
*The Gentian is referenced in Emily Dickinson's poem number 442: "God made a little Gentian-// It tried- to be a Rose-"
*A character in the book The Secret History of The Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig uses the name "The Purple Gentian" as his name while doing good deeds to prevent the invasion of England by Napoleon's army.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Gentian — Gen tian (j[e^]n shan or j[e^]n sh[i^]*an), n. [OE. genciane, F. gentiane, L. gentiana, fr. Gentius, an Illyrian king, said to have discovered its properties.] (Bot.) Any one of a genus ({Gentiana}) of herbaceous plants with opposite leaves and a …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • gentian — [jen′shən] adj. [ME genciane < OFr gentiane < L gentiana, of Illyrian orig.] designating a family (Gentianaceae, order Gentianales) of dicotyledonous plants, including the fringed gentians and the closed gentians n. 1. any of a large genus… …   English World dictionary

  • gentian — late 14c., genciane, from O.Fr. genciane and directly from L. gentiana, said by Pliny to be named for Gentius, king of ancient Illyria who discovered its properties. This likely is a folk etymology, but the word may be Illyrian nonetheless, since …   Etymology dictionary

  • gentian — ► NOUN ▪ a plant of temperate and mountainous regions with violet or blue trumpet shaped flowers. ORIGIN allegedly named after Gentius, king of Illyria, who discovered the plant s medicinal properties …   English terms dictionary

  • gentian — /jen sheuhn/, n. 1. any of several plants of the genera Gentiana, Gentianella, and Gentianopsis, having usually blue, or sometimes yellow, white, or red, flowers, as the fringed gentian of North America, or Gentiana lutea, of Europe. Cf. gentian… …   Universalium

  • gentian — gen·tian jen chən n 1) any of two genera (Gentiana and Dasystephana) of herbs belonging to a family (Gentianaceae, the gentian family) and having opposite smooth leaves and showy usu. blue flowers 2) the rhizome and roots of a yellow flowered… …   Medical dictionary

  • gentian — n. 1 any plant of the genus Gentiana or Gentianella, found esp. in mountainous regions, and having usu. vivid blue flowers. 2 (in full gentian bitter) a liquor extracted from the root of the gentian. Phrases and idioms: gentian violet a violet… …   Useful english dictionary

  • gentian — noun Etymology: Middle English gencian, from Anglo French genciane, from Latin gentiana Date: 14th century 1. any of numerous herbs (family Gentianaceae, the gentian family, and especially genus Gentiana) with opposite smooth leaves and showy… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • gentian — UK [ˈdʒenʃən] / US noun [countable] Word forms gentian : singular gentian plural gentians a plant with small dark blue flowers that grows in the mountains of western Europe …   English dictionary

  • gentian — gen•tian [[t]ˈdʒɛn ʃən[/t]] n. 1) pln any plant of the gentian family, esp. the genus Gentiana, having usu. blue but sometimes yellow, white, or red flowers 2) pln the root of a European species of gentian, G. lutea, used as a tonic • Etymology:… …   From formal English to slang