Closed Bottle Gentian
Origin: Northeastern North America
Improvement status: Wild
Seeds per packet: ~45
BOTANICAL SAMPLE - NOT GERMINATION TESTED
Life cycle: Perennial
Closed bottle gentian is an unusual-looking perennial medicinal herb with lovely but perpetually closed purple-blue flowers. It grows in a range of habitats in eastern North America from the Dakotas to the Atlantic coast.
According to the Native American Ethnobotany Database, Haudenosaunee people historically used the roots as an analgesic, eye medicine, liver medicine, headache remedy, and topical treatment for muscle soreness. Meskwaki people used the plant to heal snakebites. And Cherokee people used it as a tonic, laxative, and treatment for stomach ailments. Modern herbalists sometimes use it as a digestive aid and to treat liver and gallblader problems. The roots also have antiseptic/antimicrobial properties and can expel parasitic worms. It is one of the most bitter-tasting plants known and is therefore of interest to mixologists seeking bitter compounds for drinks (a closely related European gentian is a key ingredient in the famous Angostura bitters).
Wikipedia has a helpful explanation of the relationships between this plant and the insects that pollinate and utilize it, particularly native bees: "The closed flowers make entrance to feed on pollen or nectar difficult for many species of insects. Those strong enough to enter through the top of the flower include the digger bee species Anthophora terminalis and the bumblebee species Bombus fervidus, Bombus griseocollis, and Bombus impatiens. The eastern carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica) chews a narrow slit at the base of the flower and "steals" nectar without pollinating the plant, a behavior known as nectar robbing. The holes in the petals created by this species allow smaller insects to also access the nectar and pollen, including the honeybee (Apis mellifera), the green sweat bee species Augochlorella aurata and Augochlorella persimilis, and the eastern masked bee (Hylaeus affinis)."
Our seed comes from Prairie Moon Nursery in Winona, Minnesota.
GROWING TIPS: Cold moist stratify seeds for 30-60 days. Surface sow seeds as they need light to germinate. Hardy to Zone 3. Closed bottle gentian can thrive in partial shade to full sun, and likes moist but well-drained soil. In places with with hot summers, it will benefit from some afternoon shade.