Gentian

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Gentiana (pronounced /ˌdʒɛntʃiˈeɪnə/)[1] is a genus of flowering plants belonging to the Gentian family (Gentianaceae), tribe Gentianeae and monophyletic subtribe Gentianinae. With about 400 species, it is considered a large genus.

Contents

Habitat

This is a cosmopolitan genus, occurring in alpine habitats of temperate regions of Asia, Europe and the Americas. Some species also occur in northwest Africa, eastern Australia and New Zealand. They consist of annual, biennial and perennial plants. Some are evergreen, others are not.

Many gentians are difficult to grow outside their wild habitat, but several species are available in cultivation. Gentians are fully hardy and like full sun or partial shade, and neutral to acid soil that is rich in humus and well drained. They are popular in rock gardens.

The name is a tribute to an Gentius, an Illyrian king who was thought[2] to have found out that the herbs had tonic properties.

Uses

Some species are harvested for the manufacture of tonics and flavouring, as in bitters. The soft drink "Moxie" contains "Gentian Root Extractives".
The French liqueur Suze is made from yellow gentian. The Italian brewery Del Borgo brews a beer, geniziana, with gentian as an adjunct.

Australian Lemon and Lime Bitters produced by the Bundaberg brewing company lists "Gentian Root" as one of the ingredients in its "Bitters Brew".

The Polish vodka Zoladkowa Gorzka is flavoured with gentian.

Species

General

Gentians have opposite leaves that are sometimes arranged in a basal rosette, and trumpet-shaped flowers that are usually deep blue or azure, but may vary from white, creamy and yellow to red. Many species also show considerable polymorphism with respect to flower color. Typically, blue-flowered species predominate in the Northern Hemisphere, with red-flowered species dominant in the Andes (where bird pollination is probably more heavily favored by natural selection). White-flowered species are scattered throughout the range of the genus but dominate in New Zealand. All gentian species have terminal tubular flowers and most are pentamerous, i.e. with 5 corolla lobes (petals), and 5 sepals, but 4-7 in some species. The style is rather short or absent. The corolla shows folds (= plicae) between the lobes. The ovary is mostly sessile and has nectary glands.

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