South Dakota Native Plant Research
Gentianaceae: Frasera speciosa

Gentianaceae: Frasera speciosa


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Family Name


Common Name

Monument plant, Elkweed, Green gentian


Frasera speciosa is perennial herb with a simple, erect stem, 20–150 cm in height, that is smooth to having a covering of tiny, scattered hairs. It grows from a woody base surrounded by a rosette of large oblanceolate leaves that measure 7–25 cm long. The lanceolate cauline leaves are whorled, smaller and more linear than the basal leaves. The inflorescence is a tall, erect panicle with flowers densely clustered at the top and spread out in separated clusters below. The numerous whorls of flowers are each subtended by gradually reduced, leafy bracts. The flowers have a calyx of 4 narrow, green pointed sepals, 8–15 mm long, and a corolla of 4 broad, yellow green pointed petals, 1-2 cm long, each with purple spots and two fringed nectary pits at the base. There are four stamens tipped with large anthers and a central ovary. The plant is monocarpic, growing as a rosette of leaves for several years and only producing a flowering stem once before it dies. The fruit is an oblong capsule, 1–2 cm long. Monument plant blooms from May to August depending upon elevation. It grows in meadows, woodlands, and mountain forests, primarily at moderate to high elevations in western South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Elkweed is a dramatic and one-of-a-kind addition to a higher elevation native plant garden. Growing from seed, it will produce a cluster of leaves that return for several years and then one spring it will bolt and produce a flowering stem. In moister sites this will happen sooner than in dryer sites. In a large planting, they usually bolt in groups and will reseed themselves if the parent plant is allowed to remain after dying. This is a plant that requires patience and time.

Horticulture Notes

Seed collection: Pick capsules as they begin to open and the plant begins to senesce.

Germination: Fall sow or plant in the late winter as the snow is melting.

Light: Partial to full sun.

Soils: moist, well drained sandy, or loamy soils.

Water: Moist to mesic.

Gentianaceae: Frasera speciosa