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Natural Heritage

Most sites where Fringed Gentians are found show evidence of recent landscape disturbance, including land previously used for agriculture, roadside ditches, pond banks, and sterile hillsides. For example, at the Radio-Astronomy Lab, topsoil was removed to level the site. Formerly, fringed gentian also was found on steep, gravelly banks, such as those along Fall Creek, where continuous erosion and bank slides exposed mineral soil.

The roadside adjacent to the Fringed Gentian Natural Area, where gentians are abundant, is mowed every 2 to 3 years in June or early July before the second- year rosettes form flowering stalks. This schedule is designed to promote the gentian population by reducing late-summer competition with other meadow species, such as wild carrot (Daucus carota). Other common associated species include self-heal (Prunella vulgaris), sedges (Carex spp.), asters (Aster spp.), and goldenrods (Solidago spp.).

The exact location and density of the gentian population varies considerably from year to year, depending in part on the weather and in part on the success of other vegetation. The Fringed Gentian Natural Area has grown up to dense arrowwood and gray dogwood thicket, and gentians do not persist under these conditions. Cutting back the shrubs to promote gentians has not been successful. The large deer population in the area also poses a problem as deer seem to favor fringed gentians as a food.

The fringed gentian is a biennial, forming small rosettes the first year. The plants are rather inconspicuous until they reach nearly full size late in the summer or early autumn of the second season. The best time to see the bright blue-violet flowers is usually from early September to early October. The flowers open only in bright sunlight.

Robertson, Heather J. 1992. A Life History Approach to the Study of Plant Species Rarity: Gentianopsis crinita in New York State. Ph.D. dissertation, Cornell University.