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updated: 01/19/11 

(Gentianaceae: Gentianeae: Swertiinae)

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Plants named after Gentianella

Common name:  gentiana

Latin name and synonyms: Gentianella Moench (1794)
Synonyms: Aliopsis Omer & Qaiser (1991)
                 Chionogentias Adams (1995)

Gilg (1916)

Etymology: Gentianella means "the small gentian".

Species:  About 250 species, most in South America.

Distribution:  Temperate areas in New Zealand, Australia, Asia, Europe, northwest Africa, North and South America.

Habitat:  Many different types of habitats, such as meadows, road sides, grasslands, and alpine/montane habitats.

Characteristics:  Annual, biennial or perennial herbs. Flowers 4- or 5-merous, in terminal or axillary cymes, or solitary. Calyx with short or long tube, sometimes is deeply split on one side, without intracalycine membrane is absent. Corolla is funnelshaped, tubular, or campanulate, without plicae (folds). Fimbriae (multi-cellular hairs) often present in the corolla tube at the base of each corolla lobe, with 1-2 nectaries per corolla lobe at the base of the corolla tube. Ovary is sessile, or shortly stalked; style indistinct to absent.

Evolution and related plants:   Gentianella belong to the Swertiinae subtribe in tribe Gentianeae.  Despite its name, it is not most closely related to the genus Gentiana, which is placed in subtribe Gentianinae. Instead, it is closely related to genera such as Frasera, Gentianopsis, Halenia, and Swertia. Evolutionary studies have shown that Gentianella is not a natural (monophyletic) group and this genus will most likely be reclassified in the future.

Economic uses:  Gentianella is often depicted in artwork and is also included in some herbal tinctures.

Notes: Gentianella differs from Gentiana in that it has no plicae (thin folds between corolla lobes), no intracalycine membrane on the calyx (thinner areas between the calyx lobes), no disk at the base of the ovary, and has nectaries on the petals.

Some selected species (synonyms in parenthesis) and their distribution:

Gentianella amarella Europe, North America
Gentianella campestris Europe
Gentianella quinquefolia (link) United States


References and publications

Adams, L. G. 1995. Chionogentias (Gentianaceae), a new generic name for the Australasian "snow gentians", and a revision of the Australian species. Austral. Syst. Bot. 8: 935-1011.

Gilg, E. 1916. Gentianaceae andinae. Beib. Bot. Jahrb. 118: 4-122.

Gillett, J. M. 1957. A revision of the North American species of Gentianella Moench. Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard. 44: 195-269.

Gillett, J. M. 1963. The gentians of Canada and Greenland. Research Branch, Canada Department of Agriculture, Ottawa.

Greimler, J. & C. Dobeš. 2000. High genetic diversity and differentiation in relict lowland populations of Gentianella austriaca (A.& J. Kern.) Holub (Gentianaceae). Plant Biology 2: 628-637.

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. 1993. New combinations, names and taxonomic notes on Gentianella (Gentianaceae) from South America and New Zealand. Bull. Brit. Mus. Nat. Hist., Bot. 23(2): 61-65.

Kusnezow, N. I. 1895. Gentiana Tournef. In: Engler, A. & K. Prantl, editors. Die natürlichen Pflanzenfamilien, vol. 4(2). Wilhelm Engelmann, Leipzig.

Omer, S., M. Qaiser, & S. I. Ali. 1988. Studies in the family Gentianaceae. The genus Aloitis Rafin. from Pakistan and Kashmir. Pakistan J. Bot. 20(2): 153-160.

Omer, S. & M. Qaiser. 1991. Aliopsis, a new genus of Gentianaceae from C. Asia. Willdenowia 21: 189-194.

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, 2003


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