Herbs & Plants

Gentiana dahurica

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Botanical Name: Gentiana dahurica
Family: Gentianaceae
Tribes: Gentianeae
Subtribes: Gentianinae
Genus: Gentiana
Sectio: G. sect. Cruciata
Species: Gentiana dahurica

Synonyms : G. kurroo brevidens.

Habitat : Gentiana dahurica is native to W. Asia to E. Asia – China. It grows on grassy slopes. Roadsides, stream banks, sandy places around lakes, sunny slopes, dry steppes and the edges of cultivated land at elevations of 800 – 4500 metres.

Gentiana dahurica is a perennial flowering plant. It has a loose, handsome base of shiny, long and narrow, deep green leaves gives way to lax flowering stems, each enhanced with bouquets of white-throated, darkly blue blooms, borne at the leaf axils and crowning the very tips. Once good drainage and a cool position are provided, this low spreading beauty is relatively undemanding.
This gentian spreads wider than it is tall. New foliage emerges neatly fresh-green in early spring, and make a slightly glossy mound by early summer. Gentian-blue flowers appear in summer. I find self-sowed plants occasionally in the immediate vicinity of the mother plants.

Size of the plant : 12″ high x 12″ wide; hardy to zone 4.

Blooms July–August…..The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bumblebees, butterflies.

Seed ripens: late September


Cultivation :
In general, gentians require a moist well-drained soil in a sheltered position, a certain minimum of atmospheric humidity, high light intensity but a site where temperatures are not too high. They are therefore more difficult to grow in areas with hot summers and in such a region they appreciate some protection from the strongest sunlight. Most species will grow well in the rock garden. This species prefers an alkaline soil, but can succeed in neutral to slightly acid conditions. A moisture loving plant, preferring to grow with full exposure to the sun but with plenty of underground moisture in the summer, it grows better in the north and west of Britain. Many of the plants and seeds offered under this name are wrongly identified, usually being G. gracilipes, G. cruciata or G. decumbens. Plants are intolerant of root disturbance.

Propagation :
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a light position in a cold frame. It can also be sown in late winter or early spring but the seed germinates best if given a period of cold stratification and quickly loses viability when stored, with older seed germinating slowly and erratically. It is advantageous to keep the seed at about 10°c for a few days after sowing, to enable the seed to imbibe moisture. Following this with a period of at least 5 – 6 weeks with temperatures falling to between 0 and -5°c will usually produce reasonable germination. It is best to use clay pots, since plastic ones do not drain so freely and the moister conditions encourage the growth of moss, which will prevent germination of the seed. The seed should be surface-sown, or only covered with a very light dressing of compost. The seed requires dark for germination, so the pots should be covered with something like newspaper or be kept in the dark. Pot up the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow on in light shade in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. The seedlings grow on very slowly, taking 2 – 7 years to reach flowering size. When the plants are of sufficient size, place them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. Division in March. Most members of this genus have either a single tap-root, or a compact root system united in a single root head, and are thus unsuitable for division. Cuttings of basal shoots in late spring.

Medicinal Uses:
The roots of gentian species contain some of the most bitter compounds known and make an excellent tonic for the whole digestive system, working especially on the stomach, liver and gall bladder. The root is analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, antirheumatic, diuretic, febrifuge, hypoglycaemic and hypotensive. The root is used internally in the treatment of arthritis, allergic inflammations, low-grade fever in chronic diseases, jaundice and hepatitis. The root is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use.