Bottle gentian (Gentiana clausa) is a beautiful late season bloom. Also sometimes called closed gentian, its unique flower never opens up – but stays closed like a bottle – hence its name. Some customers at our nursery have asked “what does it do?” and “when does it open?” “This is what it does” I tell them. Most people seem to really like it – a few seem less than impressed with the flower not being showy enough. I of course think they are fabulous – but then, blue is my favorite color and a own a native plant nursery, so of course I am slightly biased on the matter…
A number of people also ask me “well how is it pollinated if it is all closed up?” A good question. In reality, it isn’t entirely closed up. A strong bee can pry its way in. According to Bill Cullina in his Wildflowers book – the petals have extra folds along their seams, like the bellows of an accordion, that expand to prevent the flower from ripping as the bee climbs inside. The things Mother Nature thinks of never cease to amaze me!
And by having to crawl inside each flower to pollinate it, they provide good cross-pollination from flower to flower. Gentian can grow in full to part sun. Mine is in full sun, and so the leaves get bronzed instead of staying nice and green like they do in a bit more shade. There are a few species native to the US. Bottle Gentian is native to much of the Northeast and is a great choice for the garden.
In light of the recent news about the plight of bees from some new studies, and the findings that some plants being sold in big stores as ‘bee friendly’ are anything but!, I’m glad to see that the bees seem to be doing very well at our nursery and in our gardens – where we don’t pesticides such as the neurotoxic pesticides known as neonicotinoids that are toxic to bees. As Carole mentions in her post, if you buy plants at your local nursery such as ours, you can avoid buying plants that turn out to be toxic.
I felt like the bumblebee paparazzi, but I was really enjoying watching the bumblebees on the closed gentian in our garden the other day. Here is a series of photos that show how they manage to push their way inside the bottle!
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