12 Jan 2023


Prairie Gentian: The Official State Flower of South Dakota

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Academic level: College

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I would like to begin current paper with my personal experience with prairie gentian. The first time I saw prairie gentian was at the local flower shop (Picture 1). I was fascinated by the beauty of this plant, different colors and shapes of the flower. I bought this amazing flower. Furthermore, according to my observations, I can say that cut flowers lived in a vase about three weeks. From that moment I began deeply investigate this species. While researching texts written about prairie gentian, I find out that this flower also called eustoma, lisianthus, Texas bluebell, bluebell, bluebell gentian, tulip gentian, Western blue gentian, Blue marsh lily, Small bluebell, Catchfly gentian, Seaside gentian. Moreover, it has to be mentioned that another scientific names for this plant are Gentiana Puberula and Downy Gentian ("Prairie Gentian", 2016) . Breeders of the world constantly develop more and more new sorts of this plant. 

Picture 1 

While researching texts written about prairie gentian I found that there is an ancient Indian legend about this plant. The legend stated that prairie gentian flowers grown on the spot of the death of a young girl who was the daughter of the tribe leader. Beauty does not reciprocate the feelings of cruel warrior, who was charmed by her. Because of this girl he had to pay with his life. This legend symbolizes the innocence and beauty. The Indians believed that flower incarnation of youthful beauty on earth. Also worthy of mention is that according to legends Mexicans believed that the spring begins to come into its own only with the appearance of the first flowers of prairie gentian. 

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2. Classification 

With respect to the Plants Database of United States Department of Agriculture , the table below provides a detailed classification of the species (Table 1). 

Table 1 

Kingdom Plantae (Plants) 
Subkingdom Tracheobionta (Vascular plants) 
Superdivision Spermatophyta (Seed plants) 
Division Magnoliophyta (Flowering plants) 
Class Magnoliopsida (Dicotyledons) 
Subclass Asteridae 
Order Gentianales 
Family Gentianaceae (Gentian family) 
Genus Prairie Gentian 

3. Key characteristics, lifecycle and distribution 

In further support of examining of prairie gentian, we also need to look at main characteristics of this plant. In this context, it has to be reviewed one of the numerous names of the plant – eustoma. It is found that eustoma, from the Greek “eu” means good and “stoma” translated as mouth, and refers to the large opening into the flower's "throat" where the corolla lobes join ("Lisianthus . The Flower Expert - Flowers Encyclopedia", 2016) . In view of all above, it can be concluded that the name of the examined plant means "beautiful mouth". Analyzing the majority of literature sources, it has to be analyzed another name of prairie gentian – lisianthus, in order to better understand some important characteristics of this plant. With regard to various literature sources it was found that name lisianthus comes from the Greek "lysis" and "anthos", which translated as "the blossom flower" ("Lisianthus . The Flower Expert - Flowers Encyclopedia", 2016) . Furthermore, it has to be noted, that from the Latin lisianthus means "bitter flower", which is quite justified as it contain large amounts of bitterness such us bitter glycosides, flavonoids and others. In Mexico, prairie gentian is considered a harbinger of spring and called Texas bluebell that succeeded to break through the dry soil of the prairie. This is one of the most beautiful plants on the prairie, with exceptionally vivid blue-violet flowers ("Lisianthus . The Flower Expert - Flowers Encyclopedia", 2016) . 

Regarding the relevant sources it can be concluded that prairie gentian is a perennial that grows on straight single to sometimes branching stems ("Eustoma grandiflorum - Plant Finder", 2016) . The central stem is slightly reddish and has lines of minute white hairs that are difficult to see ("Prairie Gentian", 2016) . Analyzing the data presented in different literature sources, it can be concluded that the leaves are oppositely arranged along the central stem, except at the apex of the plant, where they occur in a whorl of 3-7 smaller leaves ("Prairie Gentian", 2016) . What is more important in visual examination of prairie gentian is that leaves are lanceolate, sessile, and have smooth margins ("Prairie Gentian", 2016) . On each leaf, there may be minute pubescence along the central vein at the base, otherwise the texture tends to be shiny ("Prairie Gentian", 2016) . Two smaller side veins run parallel to the central vein ("Prairie Gentian", 2016) . One or more clusters of 1-8 flowers occur at or near the apex of the plant. The inflorescence is sessile at the topmost whorl of leaves, otherwise the flowers occur on short stalks from the axils of the upper opposite leaves ("Prairie Gentian", 2016) . The flowers are violet-blue (Picture 2). Also worthy of mention is the fact that the corolla is tubular and vase-shaped, but divides into 5 small triangular lobes that reflex outward ("Prairie Gentian", 2016) . Equally important, that within the corolla, there is a prominent stigma with a divided white tip, which is surrounded by five stamens with white anthers ("Prairie Gentian", 2016) . Furthermore, it has to be noted, that the outer sides of the corolla contain some patches of greenish violet, while it becomes whitish green near the base on the inside. It has to be emphasized that prairie gentian can be distinguished from other gentians that occur within the state by its more open corolla and its small, reflexed lobes. It is also has fine white hairs on the stems and at the base of the leaves, but they are often hard to see ("Prairie Gentian", 2016) . 

Picture 2 ("Prairie Gentian", 2016) . 

When looking at lifecycle of prairie gentian, it is very important to note that in general bloom starts in June and continue up until the first frost ("Eustoma grandiflorum - Plant Finder", 2016) . There is no perceptible floral fragrance. The seed capsules split into two sections, releasing numerous small seeds that can be dispersed by wind or water. The root system consists of a long stout taproot with a few lateral roots ("Prairie Gentian", 2016) . 

We have clearly identified above classification of the species, key characteristics and lifecycle of prairie gentian. What is more important at this stage is to explore distribution of prairie gentian in Illinois and the United States. The findings of majority observations stated that t he native prairie gentian is uncommon in Illinois, while it is rare or absent elsewhere within the state ("Prairie Gentian", 2016) . Prairie gentian is native to prairies and fields from northern Mexico, Southern United States from Florida west to California and north in the interior to Montana and South Dakota ("Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin", 2016) . 

4. Ecosystems and habitats 

In further support of examining of prairie gentian, we also need to look at kinds of ecosystems and habitats of this plant. On the whole, analyzing various literature sources it was found that the  natural  environment in which a species lives are sandy coastal areas, moist places in prairies and fields, and saline to freshwater marshes ("Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin", 2016) . There is also evidence that prairie gentian is not restricted to coastal habitats; it also grows in the Great Plains from Montana to New Mexico ("Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin", 2016) . 

In recent years, it has become apparent that the wild populations of this plant have been severely reduced in some areas due to collection by the public ("eNature: FieldGuides: Species Detail", 2016) . 

Analyzing the majority of literature sources, it can be suggested that prairie gentian is an indicator plant of original prairie and other high quality habitats ("Prairie Gentian", 2016) . Such habitats include mesic to dry black soil prairies, gravelly hill prairies, barrens with stunted trees or shrubs, limestone glades, and prairie remnants along railroads ("Prairie Gentian", 2016) . Sometimes, prairie gentian forms small loose colonies ("Prairie Gentian", 2016) . Furthermore, it has to be noted, that it adapts well to a regimen of occasional spring wildfires, as this removes some of the grassy debris that can smother this plant ("Prairie Gentian", 2016) . 

5. Historical aspects of usage 

With regard to historical use, it was found that the Indians have been used prairie gentian as herbal  medicine . They believed that if a few petals of prairie gentian add to drink, it would give courage and strength in a long journey. 

From a little-known plant, prairie gentian s become a real hit in many countries over the past 20 years (Wazir, 2014) . For example, US production of prairie gentian is the fastest growing segment on the flower market (Wazir, 2014) . Due to the efforts breeders the range of natural colors of prairie gentian’s flowers significantly expanded. Cut flowers appeared comfortable for transportation, an impressive in bouquet compositions and long-lived in vases, many evaluated it as an excellent culture for growing in containers and pots (Wazir, 2014) . Worldwide annually are sold more than 150 million of cut flowers in order to be used in various floristic compositions (Wazir, 2014) . 

6. Analysis of research article 

In further support of examining of prairie gentian, we also need to examine a research article that has been done on this species. With respect to the study results, it was found that it is one of the most potential and remunerative cut flower crop after carnation and rose whose cultivation under protected conditions of mid hills opens up vast opportunities for our hard working poly house growers (Wazir, 2014) . . From examining Wazir ’s (2014) article, I can say that the cultivation of prairie gentian in the warmer areas of our state and other similar climatic zones strictly demands more comprehensive research on this crop where refinement studies in the existing suitable cultivars for warmer zones can be undertaken because the most appropriate time for flowering of prairie gentian in these areas would be spring time (Wazir, 2014) . 

7. Conclusion 

Summarizing, it can be concluded, that we have clearly analyzed visual appearance of the plant as well as those characteristics that help to distinguish prairie gentian from other gentians. As well, it can be suggested that p rairie gentian is native to prairies and fields from northern Mexico, Southern United States from Florida west to California and north in the interior to Montana and South Dakota ("Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin", 2016) . After critical examination of the various literature sources and evaluation of the relevant scientific data, it can be concluded that prairie gentian has emerged as one of the top ten cut flower crops in international flower trade during the past twenty years (Wazir, 2014) . . According to numerous literature sources, it was indentified that the main reason behind the growing popularity of prairie gentian is the range of varieties available as different series with vast charming color shades, flower shapes, suited for growing under varying agro climatic conditions, having a good vase life (Wazir, 2014) . Nowadays prairie gentian takes an honorable place on the flower market. 


eNature: FieldGuides: Species Detail . (2016).  Enature.com . Retrieved 22 April 2016, from http://www.enature.com/fieldguides/detail.asp?recNum=WF1422

Eustoma grandiflorum - Plant Finder . (2016).  Missouribotanicalgarden.org . Retrieved 22 April 2016, from http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=a576

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin . (2016).  Wildflower.org . Retrieved 22 April 2016, from http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=EUEX5

Lisianthus . The Flower Expert - Flowers Encyclopedia . (2016).  The Flower Expert . Retrieved 22 April 2016, from http://www.theflowerexpert.com/content/growingflowers/flowersandseasons/lisianthus

Prairie Gentian . (2016).  Illinoiswildflowers.info . Retrieved 22 April 2016, from http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/prairie/plantx/pr_gentianx.htm

United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2016. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 22 April 2016). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA. 

Wazir, J. (2014). Evaluation Of Eustoma/Lisianthus Cultivars For Assessing Their Suitability As Prominent New Cut Flower Crop Under Mid Hill Conditions o f H.P.  International Journal Of Agricultural Sciences And Veterinary Medicine 2 (1), 105-110.

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 15). Prairie Gentian: The Official State Flower of South Dakota.


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