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Gentianaceae: Gentian Family Plant Identification Characteristics.

Gentianaceae
Plants of the Gentian Family

      Gentians have distinctive, bell-shaped blossoms. They are usually bisexual and regular with 4 or 5 separate sepals, 4 or 5 united petals and 4 or 5 stamens. The stamens are inserted on the corolla tube and alternate with the lobes. The ovary is positioned superior. It consists of 2 united carpels (bicarpellate), forming a single chamber. It matures as a capsule with many seeds. The leaves are mostly opposite, but some species of Frasera have leaves in whorls of three or four. Worldwide, there are 70 genera and 1,100 species. Thirteen genera are native to North America.

      Most members of the Gentian family contain potent bitter principles that stimulate the digestive system. You must taste the bitterness in your mouth for it to take effect. The bitter taste signals the nervous system to release digestive fluids all the way down, from saliva to gastric acid to bile. Sampling bitter herbs shortly before a meal will help get your digestive system ready for the main course; this can help prevent indigestion. The release of fluids throughout the digestive system also helps loosen the bowels to relieve constipation.

      Volatile oils are also present in the Gentian family; some species have been used to expel worms. This anthelmintic effect may be due to the combination of bitters and volatile oils.

Key Words: Plants with opposite leaves and tubular flowers with parts in fours and fives.

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Gentiana calycosa. Blue Gentian.

Gentiana calycosa. Blue Gentian.

Gentiana calycosa. Blue Gentian.

Gentiana calycosa. Blue Gentian.

Gentiana affinis. Pleated Gentian.

Gentiana affinis. Pleated Gentian.

Gentiana affinis. Pleated Gentian.

Gentiana affinis. Pleated Gentian.

	Frasera speciosa. Green Gentian.

Frasera speciosa. Green Gentian.

Frasera speciosa. Green Gentian.

Frasera speciosa. Green Gentian.

Centaurium erythraea. Centaury.

Centaurium erythraea. Centaury. Introduced from Europe.

Centaurium erythraea. Centaury.

Centaurium erythraea. Centaury. Photographed near Kettle Falls, Washington.

There are more
Gentian Family pictures
at PlantSystematics.org.


Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
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Participating
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Foraging the Mountain West: Gourmet Edible Plants, Mushrooms, and Meat.
Foraging the
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Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
Botany
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