Okay, so I didn’t see arctic gentian today. I was at work. But I thought about it, doesn’t that count? I reminisced about how many wonderful species of gentian I have seen this year and lamented the lousy fact that this year’s flower sightings have not included those of the gorgeous arctic gentian, Gentiana (sometimes Getianodes) algida. The photo below was taken on September 16 of last year, so the time is right, but current circumstances are not lining up for a high-elevation gentian search. Perhaps this year was just too dry for a good showing, or perhaps I just haven’t looked in the right places!
This very small plant, also called whitish gentian (in yet another boring, unromantic USDA name), is easy to overlook, but the white flowers with purple streaks and dots should not be missed. This is a late summer alpine plant, and as visible in the photo of snow in Rocky Mountain National Park on September 16, 2011, it thrives in harsh, alpine climates in the central Rockies.
Some refer to this species as the “boo-hoo flower”, becuase it is one of the last wildflowers of the summer to bloom (as in, boo-hoo, the summer is almost over). Some websites note seeing it in July this year, where I have only ever found it at the end of August or beginning of September. I guess the wacky weather made me miss my chance this year!