|Photo by Wayne Matchett|
Marsh gentian (Eustoma exaltatum)
Click on terms for botanical definitions.
Marsh gentian is an annual herbaceous wildflower found sporadically throughout the state. Its showy flowers are comprised of bright bluish-purple petals (sometimes white) with dark purple bases. Petals are fused at the base, forming a cup or bell shape with a dark throat. Leaves are elliptical to ovate, sessile and clasping. They are oppositely arranged. Stems are smooth and erect. Seeds are born in a sticky capsule.
Marsh gentian may bloom year-round, but typically blooms in the winter, spring and into summer. It occurs in salt marshes, beach dunes, coastal flats and moist prairies.
Marsh gentian is also known as seaside gentian and catchfly prairie-gentian.
The genus name, Eustoma, comes from the Greek eu, or “good,” and stoma, or “mouth,” and refers to the wide “mouth” of the corolla. The family name, Gentianaceae, refers to the Illyrian King Gentius (181-168 BC), who was thought to have discovered tonic properties in a species of gentian.
Family: Gentianaceae (Gentian family)
Native range: Some coastal counties from Levy to Monroe and Brevard into the Keys. Also Escambia, Duval, Orange and Putnam counties.
Click here to see where marsh gentian occurs naturally.
Hardiness: Zone 8a-11
Soil: Moderately moist to dry sandy soils
Exposure: Full sun to minimal shade
Growth habit: 1-2’ tall
Garden tips: Marsh gentian works well in a mixed wildflower garden, particularly in coastal areas as it is fairly salt tolerant.
Marsh gentian plants are often available from nurseries that specialize in Florida native plants. Visit www.plantrealflorida.org to find a nursery in your area.