Gentian, a showy herb. There are about 400 species. Gentians are found in moist mountainous areas of all continents except Africa. A great many are perennials, but some are biennials or annuals. Most gentians are low-growing plants, but members of some species are more than three feet (90 cm) tall. The slender, tapering leaves grow opposite each other on the stems. The fouror five-lobed flowers are usually blue or purple, but sometimes yellow, white, or red. The fruit is a capsule. The juice of gentian roots and rhizomes is often used in making tonics.
Gentians are favorite rock garden flowers. American species include the fringed gentian, a fall-blooming flower; and the closed, or bottle, gentian, the flowers of which never open. The yellow gentian, or bitterwort, of Europe and Asia Minor is the commercial source of gentian root, used in medicine to improve the appetite and for flavoring in vermouth.
The fringed gentian is Gentianopsis crinita; closed, G. andrewsii; yellow, G. lutea. All belong to the family Gentianaceae.