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Appalachian Gentian, a True Blue Autumn Flower

When this Appalachian gentian blooms, its flowers will be big & blue.

When this Appalachian gentian blooms, its flowers will be big & blue.

Once again this year my husband and I attended the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello.

It was a fun day.

We toured the gardens and the grounds, attended a workshop on growing fall vegetables, had a nice lunch and bought lots of seeds for fall. We also picked up a small nursery pot of Gentiana austromontana, familiarly called Southern Mountain gentian or Appalachian gentian.

The latest addition to our garden, Appalachian gentian or Southern Mountain gentian, produces showy blue flowers in late summer through early fall.

The latest addition to our garden, Appalachian gentian or Southern Mountain gentian, produces showy blue flowers in late summer through early fall.

About Appalachian Gentian

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant database and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Gentiana austromontana grows wild in as an herbaceous perennial in West Virginia, Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina. In other words, it’s a native plant in those states.

I’m hoping Appalachian Gentian will do well here in our Maryland garden, too. It’s an elegant flower that reaches heights of a foot to two feet, sending up slim, leafy stalks that produce flowers from August through September.

So often “blue” flowers are actually lavender, but Appalachian gentian’s blossoms are truly blue, which is another reason I’d like to establish it in our garden. We have so few blue, really blue, flowers.

Although our new plant is small, it has several flower heads that are about to bloom.

Although our new plant is small, it has several flower heads that are about to bloom.

Care Requirements for Appalachian Gentian

The instruction tag that accompanied our pot of Appalachian gentian says that it prefers dry to average soil and sun to partial shade, so I’m placing it in a dry, full-sun location, primarily because that’s what we have the most of in our garden! Of course, I’ll water it daily until it’s well-established and then treat it like the rest of our perennial plants, mulching it with compost every few months and watering it deeply every two to three weeks during dry spells.

Gentian Herbal Remedies

There are all sorts of gentians that grow in all sorts of climates, from prairies and mountain regions to deserts and rain forests. (You won’t, however, find gentians in the Antarctic.) Often, their roots and (less often) their bark are used in herbal remedies. In fact, you may have seen gentian root for sale online or at your local drugstore.

The Gentian Research Network notes that gentians of the Gentiana genera are commonly used in herbal preparations, cosmetics, food and drink, especially Gentiana lutea, which is commonly used as a flavoring in alcoholic beverages in Europe.

According to Web MD, gentian contains a chemical that purportedly dilates blood vessels. Its roots and (less frequently) its bark are used in cosmetics as well as some food and drink. Gentian is also used in herbal remedies for a wide range of medical conditions, from cancer to fever, cramps, high blood pressure, skin wounds and digestive problems, including bloating and intestinal parasites.

Web MD advises those who collect gentian in the wild to be careful that they do not confuse it with white hellebore (Veratrum album), a poisonous plant that it somewhat resembles.

Bottle Gentian

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed lists closed gentian or bottle gentian (G. clausa) as native to our area as well as Delaware, the District of Columbia, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. Like G. austromontana, closed gentian produces a true blue flower, but it’s much pickier about water, requiring wet or moist soil in order to thrive.


About the Author

The Dirt Farmer has been an active gardener for over 30 years.

She first began gardening as a child alongside her grandfather on her parents' farm.

Today, The Dirt Farmer gardens at home, volunteers at community gardens and continues to learn about gardening through the MD Master Gardener program.

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© 2013 Jill Spencer


RTalloni on October 07, 2013:

Thanks for this look at a true blue plant! Your photos are beautiful and useful, I don't think I'll have any trouble spying Appalachian Gentian out. How nice a spot of blue would be among a bed of bright fall mums!

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on October 07, 2013:

Thanks for your comments, Glimmer Twin Fan. Like you, I'm always on the lookout for blue flowers. Will have to look for some that like cold weather! All the best, Jill

Claudia Mitchell on October 07, 2013:

This sounds lovely, but I think our winters are too harsh for it. I would love some more late summer blue color in my garden and it is not easy to find. Reading the potential health benefits, I am continually amazed at what plants may be able to do. Thanks for a nice hub.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on October 01, 2013:

Hi Moonlake! You've named the only really other blue flower I have here, forget me nots. The dog and I get their burr-like seeds all over ourselves and have inadvertently planted them in some really unlikely places! Nice to hear from you, Jill

moonlake from America on September 30, 2013:

Very interesting and beautiful flower. I also think for-get-me-nots are true blue. I love the way they look. Voted up.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 14, 2013:

Hey Deb. Yes, bottle gentian would be there, but the Appalachian gentian will grow in meadows. I've never seen either one of them anywhere wild, and we like to hike. Nice to hear from you! Hope you get some good pics at Boomer Lake this weekend. --Jill

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on September 14, 2013:

Great introduction to a wonderful wildflower. I never noticed any in DE, but I should have paid more attention around wetlands.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 14, 2013:

Hey Pearl! You know, more and more I'm planting what most people consider weeds. lol. I'd love to have a place to grow bottle gentian--and soon I will, once we move, but here ... even the ditches are too dry to sustain it. Btw, enjoyed your getting birdhouses ready for winter hub. Have a good weekend! --Jill

Connie Smith from Southern Tier New York State on September 14, 2013:

Jill, I love the wild bottle gentian that grows in my ditch! It reminds me of the turtlehead before it opens. But the color is a most beautiful true blue that stands out against the green grasses and yellow goldenrods. As always you give us interesting and beautiful articles filled with useful info ;) Pearl

Voted Up++++ and pinned

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 13, 2013:

Hi Eddy. Thanks for you kind comments. All the best & hope you have a lovely walking weather there in Wales this weekend. --Jill

Thank you, Ms. Dora! I love a blue flower, too. This one should be in full bloom in a few days & I'm looking forward to seeing it & getting more photos to share. Always good to hear from you! Take care, Jill

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 13, 2013:

This truly blue flower contrasts so well against the green. Voted Up and Pinned. Thank you for all the additional facts. I truly appreciate your work.

Eiddwen from Wales on September 13, 2013:

This a beautiful flower Jill and a very interesting read. I vote up and share plus wish you well in your studies .

Lots of love from Wales.


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