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
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.
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
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.