Closed Gentian (Bottle Gentian)

Gentiana andrewsii
Family: 
Gentianaceae (gentians)
Description: 

A prairie forb with stems to 2½ feet long, either upright or trailing, with stalkless, opposite leaves. Blooms August through October. Flowers are in dense, terminal clusters, or a few from upper leaf axils, to 1½ inches long, always closed, cylindrical. As the flowers mature, their color changes from wine-red through purple to blue. Long-flowering. The flowers look something like large flower buds and are pollinated by bumblebees, which are large and strong enough to push their way through the tiny opening at the tip. Leaves are large, up to 6 inches long, oval to lance-shaped, opposite, appearing whorled, dark green.

Size: 
Height: to about 2½ feet.
Habitat and conservation: 
Occurs in moist prairies, low woods, streamsides, and below bluffs.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Scattered, but rare, throughout most of Missouri.
Status: 
This species is critically imperiled in Missouri and has been listed as a Species of Conservation Concern. The main threat to its survival is loss of the wetland habitat it requires—moist prairies, openings in bottomland forests, fens, and similar areas.
Human connections: 
Various species of gentians have been used medicinally as tonics and as a flavoring for liquors and for the old-fashioned soda Moxie.
Ecosystem connections: 
Many herbivores eat this plant. Also, the unique flower permits only bumblebees access, and the plant and its bees benefit each other. The bees gain exclusive access to a trove of nectar, and the flower, with a pollinator focusing on just its species, has better chances for cross-pollination.
Shortened URL
http://mdc.mo.gov/node/3630