A global citizen science platform
to discover, share and identify wildlife
Gentiana alba is a white-flowered gentian that is native from Manitoba and Ontario south to Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky and North Carolina. It is found in scattered locations primarily on rocky prairies, wooded slopes, ledges and bluff escarpments, rocky limestone glades and open wooded areas. It typically grows to 2' tall on unbranched stems clad with mostly stalkless, ovate-lanceolate, light yellowish-green leaves (to 3" long). Five-petaled, tube-shaped, upward-facing flowers (to 1 1/2" long) bloom in clusters of 2 to 7 at the stem tips and in the upper leaf axils from August to early October. Flowers range in color from white to greenish white to yellowish white, as reflected in the numerous common names for this plant including white gentian, white prairie gentian, cream gentian, pale gentian and yellow gentian. Flowers lack fragrance. Gentiana alba was first published by Muhlenberg in 1818. Gentiana flavida was first published by Gray in 1846. The plants are synonymous. Some experts consider G. alba to be the correct name because it was published first, but other experts consider G. flavida to be the correct name because of a belief that the Muhlenberg publication was invalid under the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature. Genus name honors King Gentius of Illyria, c. 500 B.C., who was reputed to have discovered the medicinal virtues of the root of the yellow gentian or bitterwort (G. lutea) from which a tonic bitters is still made. Specific epithet comes from Latin meaning white.