Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Greater Fringed Gentian - Gentianopsis crinita   (Froelich) Ma
Members of Gentianaceae:
Only member of Gentianopsis in NC.
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Section 6 » Order Gentianales » Family Gentianaceae
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Author(Froelich) Ma
DistributionFound only in 3-4 counties in the Mountains, two in the north and one or two in the south, near the GA line. RAB (1968) stated that there was a record for Macon County, but no specimen seems to be known. Specimens are known for the other three counties.

This is a Northern species, ranging from ME south to NJ, OH, and IA, and south sparingly in the Appalachians to northern GA. WV, VA, NC, and GA have only a few records each, and KY and TN lack records or recent records.
AbundanceExtremely rare, known from just a single (current) site each in Ashe, Watauga, and Clay counties. This was a State Threatened species through early 2021, but in May 2021 it was moved to State Endangered status.
HabitatThis species has highly restricted habitats that are very rare in the state. It must have high to very high pH and thin soil over rock just below the surface, and the rocks must be mafic or calcareous, such as amphibolite or serpentinized olivine in NC. The habitats usually have some seepage, as well. Sites are in full sun to partly shaded glade-like places, mostly on flats.
See also Habitat Account for General Montane Basic Barrens and Glades
PhenologyBlooms in September and October, and fruits soon after flowering.
IdentificationThis is almost certainly the most spectacular blue-flowered wildflower in NC. Sadly, very few people have ever seen it, or ever seen it within the confines of the state borders; and the great rarity of it, plus its presence mainly in high-quality sites, adds to its significance. However, you can visit one of its sites and completely miss it, for until at least well into September it either is not yet out of the ground, or it has not yet developed the blue flowers. It looks like no other species, growing as an erect stem to about 2 feet tall, with a few pairs of opposite stem leaves. These leaves are ovate to lanceolate and sessile, usually ascending. There may be a few branches from near the top of the stem, and from the stem top and branch top grow the famously large and bright to deep blue flowers, one per branch. Each flower is somewhat tubular at the base, with 4 widely flaring lobes, each of which is finely fringed. Each flower is about 2 inches tall and nearly 2 inches wide. The Pine Barren Gentian (Gentiana autumnalis) has flowers just as large and as deep blue, but its corolla lobes are not fringed, and as it can be fairly common in places, it just does not quite have the excitement of seeing a plant in bloom that a Greater Fringed Gentian does!
Taxonomic CommentsFor most of the previous century, this species was grouped with the other gentians, including Gentianella quinquefolia, into the genus Gentiana. However, these two species have been moved out, and this one into the genus Gentianopsis, with numerous others in the West.

Other Common Name(s)Fringed Gentian. The genus Gentianopsis has the group common name of "fringed gentian", and thus this one must have a modifier name, and most use Greater.
State RankS1
Global RankG5
State StatusE
US Status
USACE-agcpFACW link
USACE-empOBL link
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
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B.A. SorriePhoto taken 1987 in moist meadow, Egremont, MA. Photo_non_NCPhoto_non_NC

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