Flora: Hungarian Gentian - Gentiana pannonica

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Hungarian Gentian (Gentiana pannonica)

This Hungarian Gentian was photographed in the Bavarian Alps, on a mountain where I knew these beautiful, sightly plants to abound. Gentiana pannonica is a notable gentian in at least two ways: It has purple-magenta colored flowers (not blue) that are grouped in the axilla or at the top, and their stems reach over half a meter in height. The plants propagate clonally and thus sizable populations may cover alpine meadows. An impressive sight!

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The speckled, magenta-purple flowers of Gentiana pannonica

Gentiana pannonica is an alpine plant that occurs in the eastern alps (one of its German names is  "eastern alps gentian") and the western border of its distribution lies in eastern Switzerland. However, there is a very similar, by the looks almost identical, species, Gentiana purpurea, that lives in the western alps. The Hungarian Gentian is thus a vicariant species: one of (at least) two closely related species that are separated geographically or ecologically and thus do not interbreed.

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Sepals and petals of Tulipa sylvestris ssp. australis.

Like many other species of the genus Gentiana, the Hungarian Gentian has been used as a medicinal plant as well as to produce Schnaps. Gentian roots apparently contain some of the most bitter substances known and are used for treating digestive disorders and other afflictions. Due to their beneficial and desirable effects, Gentiana pannonica roots used to be collected assiduously, which has harmed the populations of this beautiful plant. The IUCN red list labels the species as "near threatened", while in some countries, for example the Czech Republic and Switzerland, it is even listed as "endangered".

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Gentiana pannonica bud

I think the large purple-magenta flowers, laced with tiny dark spots, are really beautiful and exceptional. In the three last photographs, the one above and the following two, you can see all the stages of budding and blossoming. At first, the flowers literally seem screwed down, then the large petals slowly unwind, and in the last photograph the creamy yellow center of the flower is exposed.

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An unwinding Gentiana pannonica flower

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A fully opened blossom of Gentiana pannonica

2014/11/16 by Florian Freimoser
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Comments (2)

  1. Beautiful collection, Florian! I especially love the 3rd one.

  2. Thank you very much Diane; I also like the 3rd one the best!

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