South Dakota Native Plant Research
Gentianaceae : Gentiana puberulenta

Gentianaceae : Gentiana puberulenta


Download Seed: Lightweight, paper thin seeds of the downy gentian, 2-3 mm long. (58 KB)

Download Seedling: Two month old gentian seedling grown in research greenhouse at SDSU. (79 KB)

Download Vegetative: The lanceolate leaves on the downy gentian are 1-5.5 mm long. (1.1 MB)

Download Flowering: The purplish, open, funnelform corolla of downy gentian in bloom near Brookings, S.D. (1.4 MB)

Download Flowers: blue petals (521 KB)

Family Name


Common Name

Downy gentian, prairie gentian

Native American Name

Dakota: Pezhuta-zi; Lakota: pȟežúta zí


Gentiana puberulenta is a perennial herb with simple, erect to ascending stems, rarely branched, the stems typically reddish tinged, with a covering of minute, soft hairs, and growing 15-50 cm in height. The simple, opposite leaves are sessile to subsessile, lanceolate, 1-5.5 cm long and 0.3-2 cm wide, with entire margins. The leaf pairs are at right angles to those above and below. The inflorescences are in clusters of 3-10 flowers at the top of the stem and sometimes also in the upper leaf axils. The calyx forms a tube, 7-18 mm long with lobes, 4-18 mm long. The blue purple to rose-violet corolla is funnel-shaped, 3-4 cm long, with the lobes erect to spreading. Inside the tube, the base of the petals is white with dark blue stripes or streaks. The fruit is a capsule that contains numerous winged seeds. Downy gentian blooms from August into October in drier prairies and upland woods on the eastern and western borders of South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Downy Gentian presents blue flowers in the fall, standing out from all of the browns, yellows, and oranges. The flowers open in the morning and then close at night, remaining closed during cloudy weather. Unlike most other gentians, it can grow on drier sites making it a versatile edition to a native plant garden. Additionally, its flowers attract bees that need to build a pollen resource in preparation for winter.

Horticulture Notes

Seed collection: Collect seeds in the fall when the capsules begin to split along the seams.

Germination: The seeds need a 60-day cold treatment and light to germinate. Seeds scattered in the fall on a damp soil will germinate in the spring.

Soil: Well drained soils avoiding heavy clays.

Light: Full sun to partial shade.

Water: Medium to dry soils.

Gentianaceae : Gentiana puberulenta