Just when I think the woods are done and the leaves crunch beneath my feet, a flash of blue might catch my eye near the stream. In my area, that blue likely belongs to soapwort gentian (Gentiana saponaria). This species can be found in north Georgia and down into the western Coastal Plain. An earlier blooming species with white flowers is striped gentian, Gentiana villosa. I have seen them both in the wild in my area of Cherokee County and soapwort grows naturally on my tiny little creek, clinging tenaciously to the bank. The flowers never quite ‘open’ – you have to be a bee knowledgeable in the ways of opening those petals to get inside.
These special and delicate flowers include a number of species in the US, many of them in the west. Some are rare due to habitat destruction. A story was circulating recently about a population of fringed gentian (Gentianopsis crinita) that had been destroyed in Union County, further putting that species at risk in Georgia.
Slightly more abundant is dwarf gentian (Gentianella quinquefolia), a species that is found in a number of northeast Georgia counties. On a Facebook group for sharing photos of native plants, several people recently posted pictures of this spectacular flower on roadsides.
Look out for these blue flowers in the fall and count yourself fortunate to get a glimpse of their special beauty.