Gentiana acaulis (stemless gentian)
Stemless gentian is a central European species and can be seen on the back of the Austrian € 0.01 (one euro cent) coin. It has also been chosen as the logo of the Alpine Garden Society.
About this species
Gentiana acaulis was in cultivation as long ago as the 18th century.
The spring-flowering Gentiana acaulis was the first gentian to be featured in the Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, appearing in the second volume in 1788.
The name ‘acaulis’ means stemless. Acaulis is also used as a group name covering a number of gentians with very short stems in which the flowers appear to sit directly on the mat of leaves.
Geography & Distribution
This species is found in the Balkans and the mountains of southern and central Europe, including the Alps, Pyrenees and Carpathians.
Its large, trumpet-shaped flowers are held close to the mat of lanceolate (narrow and tapering to a point) or elliptic leaves, on a short stem that elongates in fruit. The glorious, deep blue flowers can reach up to 7 cm long and have green spots in the throat (where the petal tube widens). The five pointed corolla lobes (petals) are 6–9 mm long and are separated by small triangular lobe-like plicae (folds).
The other species in the ‘Acaulis group’ differ from Gentiana acaulis in the shape of the leaves, the shape of the sepals, their size relative to the corolla (petals), and the markings on the inside of the flower.
Gentiana acaulis is cultivated as an ornamental.
Several species of gentians, most notably Gentiana lutea (yellow gentian) and G. acaulis, are used in tonic preparations and some anti-smoking formulas, as well as in cosmetics. Traditionally, they have been used to make bitters to stimulate appetite, improve digestion, and treat gastrointestinal complaints, and they are still used in the food industry today. G. acaulis has also been used to treat wounds, sore throat, arthritic inflammation, and jaundice.
Gentiana acaulis (Image: Richard Wilford)
Gentiana acaulis grows naturally in acidic soils but will tolerate mildly alkaline conditions. It is best grown in an exposed position in full sun, firmly planted in soil that does not dry out completely. Additional watering may be necessary during dry periods. In less exposed situations, the mat of leaves can become loose and the stems elongate. The stem of Gentiana acaulis is very short at first but can reach 15 cm long by the time the seeds are ripe.
It is often stated that G. acaulis can be shy to flower. Where this proves the case, planting in different locations is worth a try, in order to find a place where the plant is happy. Alternatively, it may be that the plant in question is a clone that rarely or never blooms, so new material should be sought. Over the years, many authors have suggested feeding to encourage blooming, and a high potash liquid fertiliser, applied in midsummer and again in early spring, is well worth trying.
The normal flowering period is from March to May but the odd flower can appear throughout the summer and well into autumn. Established plants will form a dense carpet of leaves and regular division may be needed to keep them flowering.
The tendency for G. acaulis to produce stolons (a horizontal shoot at or just below the soil surface) and runners ensures a good supply of material for cuttings. From midsummer onwards, rosettes of leaves with a short portion of stem can be removed and potted in a free-draining cuttings mix. Propagation from seed sown in autumn is also straightforward, as long as the seed is fresh.
This species at Kew
Leaves of Gentiana acaulis, used in medicine, are held in Kew’s Economic Botany Collection, where they are available to researchers, by appointment.
Keep up to date with events and news from Kew
Chickpea is the third most important pulse in the world, and its seeds have been eaten by humans since around 7,000 BC.
- around the world
- the UK
- ground breaking
- at risk
- english garden
- needs help
- for kids
- english heritage
- newly discovered
- Kew overseas
- for family
- for friends
- gifts that help
- money saving
- in urgent need
- Kew at home
- capacity building
- wet tropics
- focus families
- verge of extinction
- useful plants
- seed banking
- give time
- South East Asia
- special interest
- hot spot
- high up
- friends & family
- garden plants
Plants & Fungi blogs from Kew
25 Jan 2013
He may be a Seed Morphologist but Wolfgang Stuppy of Kew's Millennium Seed Bank discovers there is more to the snake gourd than just some strange fruit and eccentric seeds.