Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Elliott's Gentian - Gentiana catesbyi   Walter
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Section 6 » Family Gentianaceae
AuthorWalter
DistributionThroughout the Coastal Plain, and barely extends into the eastern edge of the Piedmont.

This is a Southeastern species, ranging from NJ south to northern FL and MS.
AbundanceFairly common to frequent in the Sandhills region; infrequent over most of the rest of the Coastal Plain, though widespread. Very rare if still present in the edge of the Piedmont. Though not easily told from the two range maps, this species tends to be somewhat less numerous over the lower and central Coastal Plain than is G. autumnalis, but is equally numerous in the Sandhills.
HabitatThis species grows in wetlands, but not in open pinelands as is G. autumnalis, but favors swamp openings and edges, margins of pocosins, ditches, seepages, and wet edges of savannas.
PhenologyBlooms from late September to November, and fruits soon after flowering.
IdentificationIf this species were restricted to the mountains, or primarily found in the mountains, it would be tricky to identify. Fortunately, it is essentially limited to the Coastal Plain, where the only other "bottle" gentian is G. saponaria, which is limited to just a few northern counties. Thus, it grows to about 1.5' tall, with a handful of pairs of thick and ovate-lanceolate stem leaves, and a cluster of "bottle" flowers at the top of the stem, typically bright blue to deep blue in color but can be light violet-blue to lavender-blue. It is easily separated from G. saponaria by its wider and more ovate leaves and the flowers being open at the top (where you can stick a finger in the mouth), whereas G. saponaria has narrower leaves and a closed flower at the tip. This can be a hard species to specifically target to find in the Coastal Plain, as its wetland habitats are so numerous and widespread, but thankfully it occurs in nearly all Coastal Plain counties.
Taxonomic CommentsNote: the spelling of the species name has been changed to catesbyi, following a paper by Weakley and Poindexter (2020 in press).

Other Common Name(s)Coastal Plain Gentian, Catesby's Gentian, Blue Gentian
State RankS3S4 [S4]
Global RankG5
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