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Gentianella amarella

Gentianella amarella

Gentianella amarella

Gentianella amarella subspecies acuta. Synonym: Gentianella acuta. (Little Gentian, Felwort)
Gentianaceae (Gentian Family)

Montane, subalpine.  Woodlands, meadows, openings.  Summer, fall.
Above: Gentianella amarella subspecies heterosepala: Sharkstooth Trail, September 1, 2015 and August 10, 2011.
Left: Lake Hope Trail, August 11, 2009.

At left and top, are minute alpine versions barely above ground level. What a contrast to the 18 inch tall giant immediately above.

Gentianella amarella subspecies acuta

Gentianella amarella subspecies acuta. Synonym: Gentianella acuta. (Little Gentian, Felwort)
Gentianaceae (Gentian Family)

Montane, subalpine.  Woodlands, meadows, openings.  Summer, fall.
Bridal Veil Falls Trail, Telluride, August 18, 2016.

Flowers typically have 5 lobes and 5 stamens (2 showing in the photograph) with one dark pistil that is topped by a two-parted, white stigma (overlapping in the photograph).

Gentianella amarella

Gentianella amarella subspecies heterosepala. Synonym: Gentianella heterosepala. (Little Gentian, Felwort)

Gentianella amarella subspecies acuta.  Synonym: Gentianella acuta. (Little Gentian, Felwort)

Gentianaceae (Gentian Family)
Montane, subalpine.  Woodlands, meadows, openings.  Summer, fall.
Middle Calico Trail, August 9, 2004.

Some botanists indicate that the two Gentians shown here differ in flower color, or habitat, or size, or shape and position of leaves, or fringing, or stem color, etc.  But each of these characteristics is rejected as a distinguishing  factor by other botanists.

Two distinguishing characteristics are, however, generally agreed on by professional botanists: 
1) G. amarella ssp. heterosepala has sepals which vary significantly in size and are connected only at their base. (See the sepals, the green and brown leaf-like structures at the nine o'clock position in the photograph at left. Also see the sepals in the next two photographs on the left).  G. amarella ssp. acuta sepals are nearly the same width and length and are connected forming a small cup at their base (See the sepals united in a cup at the bottom left corner of the second photograph below on the far left.) 

2) The fringe at the top interior of G. amarella ssp. heterosepala is not continuous to its junction with the inside of the corolla; the fringe of acuta is continuous to its junction with the inside of the corolla.  

However, these characteristics which professional botanists generally agree on often do not match up with what is observed in the field. For instance, the flower at left has varying length and width sepals that are not united in a cup (therefore it should be subspecies heterosepala), but the fringe is continuous to its junction with the corolla (therefore it should be subspecies acuta).

Over the past many years Betty and I have examined hundreds of Gentianella amarella in the Four Corners area and have found:  
1) Most plants have significantly varying sized sepals not connected in a cup.  Some of these flowers have sepals of very different widths and lengths, such as shown in the photograph at left; some sepals do not vary this much (as shown in the photographs below). 

2) Some of these flowers are fringed to their junction with the corolla, some are not, and some have fringing that varies, as the photograph immediately below shows. You can see that the fringing on the left and right side of the interior of the corolla unite before they join the petals; the middle fringing continues to the junction with the petal.

Gentianella amarella

Gentianella amarella

Gentianella amarella

3) The third point is illustrated by the photographs at left. 

The top right flower (not yet open) has widely varying sepal sizes and they are not united at the base.  The sepal length and width of the other two flowers do vary but not as much and the sepals are united at their base into a cup.  What is most interesting here is that all three flowers are on the same plant!

The bottom photograph at left shows a plant growing next to the one pictured at left.  Sepal sizes on these flowers are nearly the same but again the top flower sepals are not united in a cup and the bottom two are.  Fringing of all flowers shown at left was continuous to the connection with the petal.

Are the plants shown on this page and their relatives in the Four Corners area unique species, are they hybrids, are they subspecies?  We can say this: Their names may be uncertain, but their beauty is obvious and the question of their name really means nothing to them -- it is just interesting exercise for our human brains.