Gentianella quinquefolia (Stiff Gentian)

Plant Info
Also known as: Ague-weed
Family:Gentianaceae (Gentian)
Life cycle:annual, short-lived perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; wet; meadows, swamps, fens, shores, ditches, roadsides
Bloom season:August - October
Plant height:9 to 30 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: none MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
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: tubular Cluster type: flat

[photo of flowers] Clusters of 1 to 7 stalked flowers form at the ends of branching stems and arising from upper leaf axils. Flowers are light blue to violet or sometimes yellowish, ½ to nearly 1 inch long, tubular with 5 triangular lobes that fold in, closing the mouth of the tube, or stand erect when open. The calyx holding the flower is at least half the length of the flower tube, its narrow lobes up to 3/8 inch long.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are ½ to 2 inches long, about half as wide as long, lance-like or somewhat heart-shaped with a sharply pointed tip, stalkless or slightly clasping the stem. Edges and surfaces are smooth with 3 to 7 prominent parallel veins. Typically there is one strong central stem that branches freely from the upper leaf axils. Stems are smooth with four ridges, green to often deep red in color.


Stiff Gentian is another native species that demonstrates a wide range of habitat tolerance from the rich moist lowlands of a wet prairie to the high rocky ridge tops as seen at Whitewater State Park. Species such as this often perform well in the home garden and are well worth experimenting with. There are 2 varieties of Gentianella quinquefolia in North America, with var. occidentalis found in Minnesota; var. quinquefolia, a more eastern species, has a much smaller calyx.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Iron Horse Prairie SNA in Dodge County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at Whitewater State Park in Winona County, and in Mower County.


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

Posted by: Ronald - Waseca Co. old rail rite of way
on: 2013-10-03 13:55:48

My friend and I were harvesting blazing star seed for planting in a near by restoration project. Seen the bottle type, many, then here was this plant first time I have noticed the plant in that area. Waseca Co. Minnesota near New Richland, Mn..

Posted by: Keith - Oronoco Scientific Natural Area
on: 2014-09-14 23:14:53

I photographed this wildflower on the Oronoco SNA on 9/9/2014 on the tops and sides of the "Kame."

Posted by: Jeanette - Moose Lake,MN 55767
on: 2016-08-29 17:24:16

I have walked the munger trail in Moose Lake for several years and just came across them this week! So pretty! Love to find names of our wild flowers!!

Posted by: C. Sundblad - live @ Mayer,Mn 55360
on: 2016-08-30 21:32:42

Biking on the Paul Bunyan Trail by Pine River, Mn. on 8-28-2016 & looking @ all the different wild flowers. The most beautiful purple colored flower I had ever seen caught my eye low down in the ditch. It had not opened yet but was just striking, almost iridescent. I did not have a camera but am sure this is the flower.

Posted by: Kenny h - Shooting Star Trail West of Rose Creek
on: 2017-09-13 13:01:53

First time find for me...had it identified by facebook plant ID and discussion group...found it by accident...looking for stiff sunflower...was very surprised to see that it is considered mostly annual.

Posted by: Charles A - Landscape Arboretum umn
on: 2017-10-02 16:00:10

Present near parking site for prairie garden. Was in full bloom 2 October.

Posted by: Brian - Mound Prairie SNA - Houston County
on: 2017-10-10 18:34:24

I saw a lot of this species last Saturday (October 7) at the south edge of the mine glade at Mound Prairie SNA.

Posted by: Nancy Brennan - Becker County - Little Toad Lake
on: 2020-09-18 22:55:49

This is growing in a native plant slope that I planted in 2016. I have never seen it before and there are at least five plants. It appears to be well outside the known range in MN. Nice mystery as to where it came from!

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