I first fell in love with Gentiana autumnalis on an early 1990s winter botanizing trip to the North Carolina coast. In the wild, autumn gentian is found from the coastal plain regions of New Jersey south to Georgia in the sunny openings of moist, pine forests. For us Gentiana autumnalis starts flowering in late September and in the wild, can continue until after the first of the year. This is a small plant with tiny linear leaves and needle-thin, 1' long, pendent flowering spikes that end in 1-3 cobalt blue, upright opening flowers. In the wild, I have found Gentiana autumnalis growing near pitcher plants, so subsurface moisture is helpful, but not required. Thanks to naturalist John Hummer for sharing seed from a population in Caroline County, Virginia. This is not an easy plant to grow in the garden, so it should only be attempted by experienced gardeners who like to experiment.
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