Revisit to a Fringed Gentian location in northeast Georgia — 2016-10-16
It is that time of the year again. Time to make a visit to a Gentianopsis crinita or Fringed Gentian site. Since we don’t have this Gentian species in South Carolina, my headquarters, I had to drive 2.5 hours to a privately owned site in Union County, Georgia. I was first made aware of this sloping field several years ago by my good friend from Atlanta, Georgia, Alan Cressler. When we visited it then, it was late September, 2012. The site was a fallow field, and there were thousands of flowering Fringed Gentian scattered around. We got there in the morning, and all of the flowers were shut tight and covered with dew — they close at night then open in the morning when the sun warms them up.
On this trip, I didn’t get to the site until around noon, so all of the flowers were already open. However, due to the extreme drought in the spring and summer, there were only a few dozen plants in flower. It was a disappointment, but I tried to make the best of it. Fortunately, the plants were growing among a Sumac species whose leaves had already turned bright, scarlet red, which made for a nice background:
I attempted to photograph as many as I could with those bright red leaves in the background, but I was able to do that with only a handful of the flowering plants. Here is another one:
The sky-blue Gentian flowers are about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) across, and the petals are bordered with a thick fringe — thus, Fringed Gentian. Although I have seen as many as two dozen flowers on one plant, the usual number runs about 6-8 at this site. Each of the flowers is on a separate stem branch, and they appear at different heights — some up to 24 inches (60 cm).
There were so few pristine plants that I spent some time taking pictures of a particular plant from different perspectives. Here is one plant that I photographed several times:
Notice in the image above right, the flower is being visited by a large butterfly. As I was preparing to move to another plant, the butterfly came along and lit onto the flower. It didn’t stay very long, so the shot is a bit out of focus what with the fluttering and movement.
I soon moved on to other nearby plants:
Lurking a short distance away, was another Gentian family member: Gentianella quinquefolia or Stiff Gentian.
You might remember that I photographed this species up on the Blue Ridge Parkway about a month ago.
I had been at this site for about a couple of hours, and it was time to move on. So, on the way back to the truck, I managed to find a couple of additional plants to photograph:
The last one I saw just before reaching the truck was being dive-bombed by a Bombus or Bumble Bee species. It would move from flower to flower, landing on top and “digging” its way down to where the reward could be found. Here is an image I caught of the bee moving from flower to flower:
The end of the day had finally arrived. I spoke with the overseer, and he said that he hoped to bush-hog the area this coming winter. Doing so should clear out a lot of the Sumac and other weedy growth, providing more sunlight and less vegetative competition for the Gentian plants.
I’m already looking forward to visiting again this time next year, especially if there is sufficient rain this winter and coming spring. Sites like this one, which conserve special plants, are scattered around the region. Finding them is the first step in being able to photograph its treasures. I’ve been fortunate to network with some naturalists and botanists who know about these places, and I’m very grateful that they have shared these locations with me.
Until next time…