Plants of the Western Slope Jan. 25, 2017

By Evelyn Horn


Monument Plant
(Green Gentian)

How grand! The sky is blue (yes, a few clouds are around but I'm ignoring them). The sky is bright! And Terri just told us that there are "thousands" of cranes at the Escalante area! And the sky is blue!

Days and days and days and days have gone by -- gray and gray and gray and I'm sick of them! Maybe the sky will be blue again tomorrow. I hope.

From the dining room window I can see Crag Crest. Shining and white. How beautiful! And I travel up there in my mind's eye.

Everything is fresh and the green-smell is overwhelming. And here is my Monument Plant, but I prefer to call it Fraser speciose which is the "proper name." Or in everyday language, it's Green Gentian. The plant is about five feet tall, with a base over a foot wide and the upper part is totally flowers! It's difficult to find ordinary words for this plant. It is too beautiful! Each flower is over an inch wide, with four white, decorated with purple markings. The large pistil is surrounded by white filaments and the four stamens are erect. The green sepals protrude beyond the whole structure. In a word, magnificent!

The plant is "monocarpic" meaning that it flowers only once and then dies and it may live for twenty to eighty years. So it is much like the Century Plant of the Southwest. From recent research (1960s) by Dr. David Inouye at the Gothic Biological Station, a world of information now exists.

The plant was thought to be "biennial" (living for only two years) and many may bloom when conditions are just right (as was the case in 2010). The name refers to John Fraser, the 18th century botanist who collected for Kew Gardens. The term speciose means "showy."

The plants may appear as mere clumps of foot-long leaves but that's your clue to watch in the future (when the snow melts). And if you hadn't guessed, this is one of my favorite plants. Gentians are usually small (growing only a few inches high) and they bloom in the fall in damp or wet places. But Green Gentian blooms in the summer in sunny, dry sites.

And again I thank Al Schneider for his wonderful photography, and his willingness to allow me to use it!