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updated: 01/19/11 

tribe Gentianeae

Overview of gentian tribal classification

Classification list arranged by genus name


Species:  This tribe is the most species-rich tribe in the gentians, including circa 940-970 species in 17 genera. Gentiana is the largest genus.

Distribution: Primarily temperate areas worldwide, especially in Europe, North America, Asia, Australia, and South America. Some species also occur on mountains in tropical areas in South and Central America, Africa, and Asia..

Habitat:  This group of gentians grows in many different types of habitats, such as forests, grasslands, mountains. 

Characteristics:  Herbs.  The leaves often with a distinct basal rosette. Flowers 4-5-merous. Calyx is shortly lobed to deeply divided to the base, sometimes with an intracalycine membrane. Corolla tubular, rotate, funnelshaped, or campanulate, violet, blue, green, red, yellow or white in color, with very short to long lobes, sometimes with plicae (small extra lobes). Sometimes hairy or with glands on inside of corolla, or with a nectary disk at base of the ovary.  Anthers are sagittate.  Ovary stipitate (on a gynophore) or sessile, placentation parietal. Style mostly short or absent, rarely long and filiform. Stigma bilobed. Fruit a capsule, rarely a berry.

Evolution and related plants:   Gentianeae is closely related to the tribes Helieae and Potalieae.  Within the Gentianeae there are two main clades, identified as two subtribes. Crawfurdia, Gentiana, and Tripterospermum belong to subtribe Gentianinae, and all other genera belong to subtribe Swertiinae.

Economic uses:  Many species in this tribe are used for their medicinal properties, especially species in Gentiana and SwertiaGentiana is also popular in temperate rock gardens and in art and design.

Notes:  This is the group of gentians the deep-bluest gentians belong to.  Gentiana acaulis, the stemless gentian, is one of the most popular flowers in the Alps in Europe.  Halenia is unique in the gentian family by having corollas with a spur on each corolla lobe. 

Included genera:
Bartonia H. L. Mühl. ex Willd.
Comastoma (Wettst.) Toyok. (images)

Crawfurdia Wall. (images)
Frasera Walter

Gentiana L. (images)
Gentianella Moench
Gentianopsis Ma
Halenia Borkh.
Jaeschkea Kurz
Latouchea Franch. (images)
Lomatogonium A. Braun
Megacodon (Hemsl.) Harry Sm. (images)
Obolaria L.
Pterygocalyx Maxim.
Swertia L.

Tripterospermum Blume (images)
Veratrilla Baill. ex Franch. (images)



Gielly, L. & P. Taberlet. 1996. A phylogeny of the European gentians inferred from chloroplast trnL (UAA) intron sequences. Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 120: 57-75.

Hagen, K. B. von & J. W. Kadereit. 2001. The phylogeny of Gentianella (Gentianaceae) and its colonization of the southern hemisphere as revealed by nuclear and chloroplast DNA sequence variation. Org. Divers. Evol. 1: 61-79.

Ho, T.-N. & S.-W. Liu. 1990. The infrageneric classification of Gentiana (Gentianaceae). Bull. Brit. Mus. Nat. Hist., Bot. 20: 169-192.

Ho, T.-N., S.-W. Liu, & X.-F. Lu. 1996. A phylogenetic analysis of Gentiana (Gentianaceae). Acta Phytotax. Sinica 34(5): 505-530.

Struwe, L., J. W. Kadereit, J. Klackenberg, S. Nilsson, M. Thiv, K. B. von Hagen, & V. A. Albert. 2002. Systematics, character evolution, and biogeography of Gentianaceae, including a new tribal and subtribal classification. Pp. 21-309. In: L. Struwe & V. A. Albert (eds.), Gentianaceae: Systematics and Natural History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

© Lena Struwe, 2002.


© Gentian Research Network, 2002-2011.
For corrections and additions, contact Lena Struwe at