Name: Northern Gentian
Scientific Name: Gentianella amarella
This is a small plant about a foot high that I found and photographed in 2005, but I haven’t seen this plant anywhere since. It was along the northwest border of Emigrant Springs State Park in fairly dense woods. It is known to grow across Alaska and Canada, and in the western half of the U.S. to Mexico, and is native to that area. Northern Gentian is one of 13 species of plants from the Gentian family that are found in the Blue Mountains.
The Gentian plant family, and three genera in the family, Gentian, Gentianopsis, and Gentianella, were named for King Gentius of Illyria. He was credited with discovering medicinal uses for the plants. Illyria refers to European tribes of antiquity in the western portion of the Balkan Peninsula.
The “ella” at the end of Gentianella is Latin for small, likely referring to the small flowers of this plant. Amarella is Latin for bitter. So the name of this plant translates as a small, bitter gentian.
The leaves are somewhat egg-shaped, are attached directly to the main stems, and have acutely pointed tips. The stems branch freely to create a somewhat bushy overall shape for the plant. The flowers are about an inch long or less, and are pink to blue or purple in color. The flowers are somewhat funnel-shaped, with four lobes, which is consistent with other species in the same family.
In spite of the efforts of King Gentius, I am unable to find any information indicating medical treatments or other uses for this plant.
Where to find: Though I’ve only found this plant once, it should be more common than my luck would indicate and should be in moist soil in meadows or in dense woods.