Saturday, October 27, 2012

Agueweed or Stiff Gentian (Gentianella quinquefolia)

September 15th, 2012. We drove over Patterson Gap Road from Betty’s Creek Road to Persimmon Road. Patterson Gap lies on the Tennessee Valley Divide in the Chattahoochee National Forest. The road is graveled and water erosion has produced some rough sections.

Our first find was Lobelia siphilitca (Great Blue Lobelia). Further up the road – at about 2,900 ft asl - we started to see gentians. We spotted Gentiana saponaria (Soapwort Gentian) on an embankment above the road; why do they always grow on steep embankments above the road?  I scrambled part way up to take some photos and then spotted a few plants of Gentianella quinquefolia (Agueweed or Stiff Gentian). This flower is easy to identify by its clusters of characteristically shaped flowers. I must say I had expected larger flowers.

Plants on the embankment. A couple of flowers on the plant to the left have opened.

Views of clusters of flowers. The leaves are ‘soft’ compared with leaves of Gentiana sp.

I thought this was the best view we would get of these flowers. We drove a little further up the road and found several plants growing at the edge of the road.

The tallest of these plants was about 30 inches.

A closer view of the top cluster of flowers

Views of the top cluster from different angles

A close-up view of the top cluster

The calyx lobes of this species

Gentianella quinquefolia (Agueweed or Stiff Gentian) is native to the United States where it’s found in states along the eastern seaboard from Maine to Georgia and including West Virginia and Tennesee. It is distributed more widely than indicated; it grows in Illinois and Missouri. In Georgia, it’s been documented only in a few counties, including Rabun County, in the northeast of the state.
Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification resources:
Natural and Naturalized Plants of the Carolinas and Georgia: Gentianella quinquefolia (Fivefinger Gentian, Eastern Agueweed,Stiff Gentian) 
Missouri Plants: Gentianella quinquefolia 
United States Department of Agriculture Plants Database: Gentianella quinquefolia (Agueweed)
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