Gentiana acaulis
"Trumpet or Stemless Gentian"
by Kristl Walek

"Blue flowers are the least plentiful, and the philosophers tell us why. All flowers, they say, were at first green; from this they diverged to yellow and white; their next advance to shades of red. Their triumphant colour - or, say, their final stage in chromatic evolution - is blue. If we accept the hypothesis - for theory it is not - we must regard the gentians as incapable of further change in respect of colour. They have passed through all the prescribed phases, and having reached the goal, may rest and be thankful, while myriad flowers in the earlier stages are still slowly fighting their way to the ‘blue ribbon' of the turf amidst which they sparkle and glow."

Gentiana acaulis has a wide distribution throughout the mountains of Europe (Alps, Balkans, Carpathians, Jura, Pyrenees), and is therefore found growing in a variety of habitats from pastures to rubble and scree and to coniferous woodlands at sub to alpine levels. It also grows in both lime and acidic soils.

Acaulis means "stemless" and is also a group name covering a number of trumpet gentians. The acaulis group includes Gentiana acaulis, angustifolia, alpine, dinarica, ligustica, occidentalis and clusii.

Trumpet Gentian is a beautiful spring species producing large, upturned trumpets of brilliant deep blue over a mat of glossy, dark-green lance-shaped foliage. The trumpets are spotted green inside and the flowers have metallic flakes in their petals. Height is only 5-8 cm. It is an evergreen, mat-forming species which spreads outward by a slow increase in its rosettes. These are easy to pull apart into separate rooted sections and be replanted separately, once the need for division arrives after 3-4 years. Flowering is normally late spring to early summer.

Next to Gentiana septemfida (Everyman's Gentian), G. acaulis is perhaps the easiest species for novice rock gardens to try. It is not difficult to please. Consistent moisture, but a well-drained spot seems essential. Full sun is preferred for best flowering. It is exceptionally hardy, at least to Zone 3. I have seen the species growing with the vigour of a border perennial in Alberta and the Yukon and it certainly thrives in many gardens in the Ottawa area.

Germination from seed requires either cold treatment or GA-3 (with germination at warm within 2 weeks). Growth is slow, as with most Gentians, so expect to wait for at least 3 years for flowering-sized plants. For the impatient, plants are now readily available from alpine nurseries.