No. 41. Gentiana catesbei.
English Name—CATESBIAN GENTIAN.
French Name—Gentiane de Catesby.
German Name—Katesbys Enzian.
Officinal Name—Gentiana Catesbiana.
Vulgar Names—Blue Gentian, Southern Gentian, Blue-bells, Bitter-root.
Authorities—Catesby fig ...., Walter, Elliott, Macbride, Bigelow, fig. 34, and Seq. Coxe Disp. Zollickoffer, &c.
Genus GENTIANA—Calix campanulate four or five cleft, segments unequal. Corolla with a tubular base, and a variable limb, with four to fifteen lobes or teeth. Stamina five equal, inserted on the tube, not exserted. One stipitate Germen oblong, two stigmas sessile or with a style. Capsule 1 celled, 2 valved, many seeded.
Species G. CATESBEI—Stem rough, leaves opposite, sessile, ovate lanceolate, subtrinerve, acute, flowers capitate; calicinal segments longer than the tube: Corolla tubular, ventricose, plaited, with ten teeth, five alterne larger acute, five smaller bifid.
Description—Root perennial, yellowish, branching, fleshy. Stem simple, erect, cylindric, rough, 1 or 2 feet high. Leaves remote, opposite, decustate, ovate or lanceolate, entire, slightly trinerve, acute, rough in the margin.—Flowers subsessile in a crowded terminal head, of six to twelve, surrounded by an involucrum of four leaves and some lanceolate bracts, oftensome axillary flowers below the head. Calix with segments longer than the base, linear-lanceolate, unequal, acute. Corolla large two inches long, of a fine azure blue, base short tubular, limb large, plaited, swelled, tubular, open at the top; border ten cleft; five smaller lobes alternating with the others, but opposite to the calicinal and stamina, bifid, acute, ciliate: the five larger lobes rounded, acute, entire. Five Stamina shorter than the corolla, with subulate filaments and sagittate anthers. Germen oblong-lanceolate, compressed, stipitate; style very short, two oblong reflexed stigmas. Capsule oblong, acute at both ends, one celled, two valved, many small seeds inserted on the valves or a longitudinal placenta on each valve.
Locality—It grows from Carolina to Alabama and West Kentucky, in glades and open plains.
History—This species was long considered as a variety of the G. Saponaria of the Northern States; but distinguished by Walter and Elliott, and named after Catesby, who gave an imperfect figure of it long before. It is one of our best native medical Gentians, but we have many others; in the Northern States the G. quinqueflora is the officinal kind.
All the Gentians are beautiful plants, more or less bitter in the roots or leaves. There are many species in the United States, some of which have only lately been noticed and many are as yet undescribed. The Genus Gentiana took its name from Gentius, king of Illyria, it gives its name to a large Natural Family, and belongs to Pentandria digynia of Linnaeus, although it has often more or less than five Stamina, and seldom if ever two styles. That genus is a very heterogeneous one, although striking by its habit; but the flowers have the peculiarity of being variable in shapes and numbers; wherefore many botanists have rationally divided it into subgenera, which might be rather deemed Genera. Almost all our species belong to the S. G. Pneumonanthe having oblong or tubular Corolla, and five Stamina, except the G. crinita which belongs to S. G. Eublephis having four Stamina and a hypocrateriform ciliated Corolla. While the officinal Gentian or G. lutea of Europe belongs to S. G. Rotularia having rotated Corolla, with five to nine Stamina.
All our Gentians are autumnal plants, blossoming very late from September to November: They are all ornamental and would adorn our gardens, where some are already introduced.
Qualities—The root has a mucilaginous and sweetish taste, followed by an intense bitterness like that of the officinal Gentian. It contains Amarine, Extractive, Mucilage, Resin, Sugar, Oil, and the principle Gentia, which is soluble in Water and Alcohol, as well as all the active parts: the solutions are more bitter than the root in substance: No astringency.
Properties—Tonic, Sudorific, Antiseptic, Corroborant, Cathartic, &c. It is very little inferior to the officinal Gentian in strength and efficacy, it invigorates the stomach, and is very useful in debility of the stomach and the digestive organs: it increases the appetite, prevents the acidification of food, enables the Stomach to bear and digest solid food, and thus cures Indigestion or Dyspepsia. It is much used in the Southern States in hectic and nervous fevers, pneumonia, &c. acting as a sudorific tonic. It may be used like common Gentian in general debility, Marasm, Hysteria, and even Gout. Also united to astringents for intermittents and other fevers. The dose is in substance from 10 to 40 grains, in tincture one fourth of an ounce to one ounce, in extract 2 to 8 grains. In large doses the Gentians prove cathartic like Frasera. They enter in all digestive pills and preparations.
Substitutes—Frasera Verticillata, Menyanthes, Triosteum, Coptis, Sabbatia, Xanthorhiza, &c. besides nearly all the native Gentians that follow.
Remarks—Our native Gentians being little known as yet, and all medical, I deem it proper to annex here a complete account of them, with notices on the new kinds.
1. G. Quinqueflora Lin. or five flowered Gentian. Easily known by its branched winged Stem; small oval, clasping leaves; flowers five cleft, small, axillary by bunches of three, four or five and blue—Common from New England to Kentucky, and the best substitute, the whole plant may be used, being intensely bitter like Sabbatia angularis. Annual.
3. G. Amarelloides Michaux or Yellow bunch Gentian. Differs from the former by oval lanceolate leaves, stem round with four small angles, flowers axillary and terminal, yellowish, calix longer foliaceous.—In Kentucky, Illinois, &c. Equal to the former. Annual.
3. G. Crinita Wild. Fringed Gentian. Easily known by its lanceolate leaves, large solitary flowers on long peduncles with a fringed four cleft corolla, &.C—An elegant species found from New York to Carolina. Perennial like ail the following.
4. G. Saponaria Lin. Soap Gentian. Leaves oval lanceolate, acute, trinerve, flowers verticillate, sessile; calix with short oval segments: corolla oblong, with ten teeth, the interior unequally trifid.—Common from New England to Virginia, medical.
5. G. Clausa Raf. Closed Gentian. Stem round smooth, leaves ovate lanceolate, acuminate, subtrinerve: flowers verticillate, sessile; calix four to six cleft angular, segments foliaceous short: Corolla clavate, short, closed 8-10 teeth, internal teeth equally bilobe. On the Taconick and Green mountains, flowers blue, half the size of G. Saponaria and quite shut. Variety with ternate lanceolate leaves.
6. G. Angustifolia Michaux. Narrow leaved G. Stem simple, slender, one flowered, leaves narrow linear spreading: Corolla funnel shaped ten cleft, with five internal lacerate segments,—Rare, beautiful large flowers, in New Jersey, Carolina, &c.
7. G. Linearis Willd. Linear G. Stem rough, leaves linear lanceolate, undulate, ciliate; flowers capitate, sessile, Corolla campanulate five cleft, with the internal folds denticulate.—In the Alleghany mountains.
8. G. Ochroleuca Wild. Pale G. Stem rough angular, leaves elliptic rough; flowers capitate, sessile: Corolla ventricose, closed, five cleft, inner folds simple, acute.—In New York, Pennsylvania, &c. flowers yellowish white.
9. G. Heterophylla Raf. Grey G. Stem simple, erect, round, smooth; leaves subtrinerve, lower oboval obtuse, medial elliptic, upper oblong acute: Flowers terminal, sessile two to four, calix campanulate, segments cuneate obtuse; Corolla ventricose, five cleft, segments acute, bidentate on one side.—On the mountains of Virginia, East Kentucky and Tennessee, flowers of a pale bluish grey. Sometimes called Flux-root and used for the Disentery.
10. G. Serpentaria Raf. Snake-root G. Stem smooth, flexuose, subangular; leaves obovate or oblong, subobtuse, subtrinerve, undulated: Flowers fascicled sessile, bracteoles petiolate, calix campanulate, angular, segments linear and carinate: Corolla tubular five cleft, segments obtuse notched, inner folds lacerated.—In Indiana, Illinois, &c. Root considered a specific for men and cattle bitten by Rattlesnakes and Copper-heads; it is also said to stupify snakes.
11. G. Shortiana Raf. Shortian Gentian. Several assurgent stems, rough, ancipital, one flowered; leaves oblong or cuneiform, as long as the intervals, glaucous beneath, edges rough, uninerve, the lower obtuse. Flower sessile bracteate, calicinal segments short, oblong: Corolla nearly campanulate, five cleft, internal folds lacerated—Common in the glades of Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, &c. Stem sometimes only four inches, and flower above one inch, blue. Var. biflora, stem upright, two flowered. Dedicated to Dr. Short of Kentucky, who has communicated to me several of the fine following new species.
12. G. Torreyana or Torreyan. Stem erect, rough, quadrangular, leaves linear-lanceolate, obtuse, glaucous, short, twice as long as the intervals, uninerve, clasping, often revolute. Flowers three to five, terminal, sessile, calicinal segments linear, as long as the tube: Corolla nearly campanulate, five cleft, segments acute, inner folds entire—In the glades with the foregoing, flowers blue, one inch long. Dedicated to Dr. Torrey.
13. G. Rigida Raf. Stiff G. Stem stiff, round, rough; leaves lanceolate, acute, stiff, small, subtrinerve, clasping, longer than the intervals. Flowers one to five terminal, calicinal segments linear, as long as the tube: Corolla campanulate five cleft, segments acute, inner folds entire—In West Kentucky, Tennessee, &c. stem red, flower blue, one inch long, leaves glaucous beneath, small.
14. G. Elliottea Raf. or Elliottian G. Stem round, smooth, leaves oblong, narrow, subacute at both ends, as long as the intervals, subtrinerve, glaucous beneath: Flowers three to five terminal, sessile; calix elongated, segments oblong acute, as long as the tube: Corolla campanulate, segments acute, inner folds lacerated—In West Kentucky, leaves few, three inches long, flowers 1 1-2 inches, blue. Dedicated to Elliott.
15. G. Gracilis Raf. Slender G. Stem slender, rough, round ancipital; leaves twice as long as the intervals, not spreading, linear, uninerve, clasping, the lower obtuse, upper acute: Flowers two to five, sessile, long and slender, calicine segments linear, as long as the tube: Corolla slender, tubular sub-campanulate, five cleft, segments deep, acuminate, inner folds simple—In West Kentucky. It has neither the leaves ciliate and undulate as in G. linearis nor the glaucous short leaves of G. torreyana. A variety of this with broader leaves, more spreading, may be the G. pneumonanthe of Michaux, but not Linnaeus. Leaves in both one inch long, and flowers two inches long.
16. G. axillaris Raf. Axillary G. Stem round, rough; leaves oblong lanceolate, acute at both ends, trinerve, twice as long as the intervals: flowers axillary, pedicellate, shorter than the leaves; segments of the calix linear, as long as the tube: Corolla tubular, five cleft, segments acute, with a lateral tooth—Glades of West Kentucky. Leaves three inches long, flowers one inch, with-two lanceolate bracts.
17. G. Collinsiana Raf. Collinsian G. Stem round, smooth; leaves lanceolate, acuminate, trinerve, longer than the intervals; flowers capitate, involucrate, segments of the calix lanceolate, acute, as long as the tube: Corolla campanulate, five cleft, segments mucronate, inner folds rounded, notched.—A fine species, leaves three inches long, flowers two inches, blue.—In the glades of Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and West Kentucky. Dedicated to Z. Collins.
I have never seen the G. pneumonanthe nor G. Villosa of Linnaeus. I suspect that the true G. pneumonanthe of Europe, does not grow in America, all our species being different from the European, and that either G. gracilis or G. torreyana was meant by Michaux. As for G. villosa it is a doubtful plant, seen by very few botanists, all our Gentians have smooth leaves, I suspect that it may be a hairy variety of my G. heterophylla.
The above account may be considered as a concise monography of our Gentians; but there are some other species in the southern states. The perennial kinds, which are the most numerous, have their medicinal properties concentrated in the roots, which may safely be substituted to the officinal Gentian. The annual kinds have the whole plant intensely bitter and available as in Sabbatia, Chelone glabra, Verbena hastata &c. They all ought to be cultivated for their beautiful blue blossoms, and officinal utility.
Additions and corrections
41. GENTIANA CATESBEI—Pursh considers the G. villosa as identic with G. ochroleuca.