Gentiana puberulenta (Downy Gentian)

Plant Info
Also known as: Prairie Gentian
Family:Gentianaceae (Gentian)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:sun; upland prairie, open woods
Bloom season:August - October
Plant height:8 to 18 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: bell

[photo of flower] Clusters of 1 to 9 flowers at the top of the stem and in the upper leaf axils. Flowers in the terminal cluster are stalkless and those in the axils are short stalked. Flowers are bright blue to deep blue-violet, 1½ to 2¼ inches across when fully open, upright, bell-like with 5 widely spreading, sharply pointed, oval to triangular lobes. Between the lobes is connective, pleat-like tissue, ragged on the outer edge and sometimes lighter colored. Inside the tube, the base of the petals is white with dark blue stripes or streaks; the outer surface of the petals is darker, almost purplish black. The column of white, creamy-tipped stamens in the center often become spreading with age. The calyx is short tubular with four narrow, leafy bracts widely spreading below the flower.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are simple and opposite, lance-shaped to lance-oblong, ¾ to 2¾ inches long and ¼ to ¾ inch wide, stalkless and toothless, with glossy surfaces and fine, short hairs along the midrib and/or edges, but only towards the base. Leaf pairs are at right angles to the pair above and below. Stems are erect to ascending, rarely branched, typically tinged reddish and are covered in minute, soft hairs, often in faint lines.


All of Minnesota's other native Gentian species are more of less associated with moist soils, often bordering into wetlands, but Downy Gentian can put on an unexpected showy display of deep blue-violet on open dry prairies and hills. It is always a pleasant surprise in late summer and early autumn when much of the prairie is putting out golden fall colors. Though we've not been there ourselves, we've been told that along hiking trails in the sandy hills of Glacial Lakes State Park south of Starbuck is an excellent place to view this in September.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Seven Sisters Prairie (TNC), Ottertail County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Douglas, Mower and Ottertail counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Jane - Dakota County
on: 2013-11-30 11:44:56

I'd like to know how hard this would be to propagate from seed? And who might have seed to sell?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2013-11-30 18:52:06

Jane, I'm afraid we don't know about gardening with this particular species, or if it's even available in the nursery trade. You can, however, check out the native plant nurseries listed here on the web site. See "where to buy native seeds and plants" that shows on almost every page. If none of those vendors have it they may know who does.

If you do find some seed, let us know how it goes.

Posted by: Brian - St. Peter
on: 2013-12-04 19:30:55

I've seen this plant in flower in Osmundson Prairie SNA (Faribault County near the Iowa border, August 2012), Cottonwood River Prairie SNA (Brown County, September 2012), and Cedar Mountain SNA (Redwood County, October 2013). Not common in any of those locations, but always a welcome burst of brilliant blue, and always growing in gravelly/sandy drier areas.

Posted by: Anthony - Hennepin County - Crow Hassan Park Reserve
on: 2014-08-28 22:46:46

Seen at Crow Hassan Park

Posted by: Keith - Oronoco Scientific Natural Area
on: 2014-09-14 20:16:29

Downy Gentian grows on top of and on the sides of the "Kame" on the Oronoco Scientific Natural Area. I photographed this flower on the SNA on September 14 2014.

Posted by: Brett - N of Little Falls - Ripley Esker SNA
on: 2014-09-23 15:48:35

Saw two flowering plants on the open top part of the esker. First time seeing these flowers, they have a unique color to them. Happy to have discovered them!

Posted by: Shelby - Oronoco Prairie SNA
on: 2014-09-23 17:36:53

We found a number of these on the north- and north-west facing slopes of the low knobs along the south edge of Oronoco. Beautiful display!

Posted by: Terry - Seven Sisters Prairie
on: 2015-09-22 18:12:07

Hiked Seven Sisters today (9/22/15) and the Downy Gentian are still happily blooming up there! So beautiful!

Posted by: Lisa - Lyon County
on: 2015-09-26 13:32:13

Out walking on our native prairie land saw for the tenth straight year, always a welcome sight love the color just never knew the name.

Posted by: Terry - Glendalough State Park
on: 2016-08-31 22:57:04

Downy Gentians and Bottle Gentians are blooming in Glendalough State Park in Otter Tail County this week.

Posted by: Kristy Z - Redwood County
on: 2016-09-19 16:35:59

Found this flower on a fairly dry prairie remnant hillside in Redwood County today - 9/19/2016. It is truly remarkable.

Posted by: BW - Sherburne County
on: 2016-09-27 21:45:53

9-3-16 For the first time saw one flowering plant right off of my usual parking area in Sand Dunes SF. Maybe I will find more here in my travels...

Posted by: BW - Sherburne County
on: 2016-10-10 18:55:41

Found one in the SNA I frequent for the first time. In low swale known to host a great variety of plants, turning out to be one of my favorite spots.

Posted by: Ron P - Valley Springs, SD
on: 2017-09-05 21:22:45

I just found this flower for the first time. I am on a few acres of an old pasture which I believe is a remanent Prairie. It's in dry sandy soil. I hope I find more!

Posted by: Brett - Otsego
on: 2017-09-10 18:30:19

Flowering now in Glacial Lakes SP.

Posted by: deb r
on: 2017-12-16 04:49:12

all gentians need to sowed fresh. Never let the seed dry. sow the seed fresh or put it into moist cold stratification as soon as collected and it will grow like a weed. Fun stuff just never let the seed dry or even buying dry seed is a waste of money.

Posted by: april st.aoro - zimmerman
on: 2018-09-05 22:19:15

just found today at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge has anyone had experiance with collection seed? any photos of what they look like when ready to be harvested?

Posted by: Sheila Maybanks - St Croix Savannah SNA, Washington County
on: 2018-09-10 08:48:05

Lovely! Have not seen them before at the SNA

Posted by: cynthia malinowski
on: 2020-08-06 00:07:57

Prairie Moon carries seed & planting instructions

Posted by: Catherine Malave - Glacial Lakes State Park
on: 2020-08-27 14:09:15

Yes! This is blooming today and saw it just beside the trail. Also saw bottle gentian today just at edge of the trail. So lovely, beautiful blue-violet color.

Posted by: Tonya Schoenfuss - Glacial Lakes State Park, Starbuck, MN
on: 2020-08-31 22:11:45

Passed at least 5 colonies on the trails that go around Kettle Lake. Most had not opened yet (Aug. 30, 2020) but I was treated to two colonies with beautiful blooms.

Posted by: Howard Goltz - Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, Minneapolis
on: 2022-10-11 15:20:45

2 plants in bloom today, near big oak at the top of the prairie garden. 10/11/2022

Posted by: Erin Gergen Halls - Kasota
on: 2023-09-18 12:14:58

Saw this flower for the first time ever, today, walking out at the Kasota Prairie Scientific Nature Area. I was admiring wild asters when I saw it out of the corner of my eye. I have walked there, and surrounding areas for many many years, and have never seen this beautiful flower!

Posted by: - Murray County
on: 2024-03-11 00:01:52

It has been well over a decade, but I have seen this growing on my grandparents' property. The property is almost entirely on a hill. Thus, it is relatively dry. I may have seen this only one other time. Also, for those looking for a provider of seeds, Prairie Moon of Winona does sell them. I will be trying to plant them this year.

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