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Montana Field Guides

Pygmy Gentian - Gentiana prostrata

Status Under Review
Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: SU
C-value: 6

Agency Status


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General Description
Pygmy Gentian is a low annual to short-lived perennial herb with several prostrate to erect stems that are 1-10 cm long. The broadly elliptic, opposite, overlapping leaves sheathe the stem and are 3-5 mm long with pale margins. The light green foliage is glabrous. Solitary flowers are borne at the stem tips. The green or bluish, tubular calyx is 6-14 mm long and has 4 lobes that are each 1/3 the length of the tube. The light blue, tubular corolla is 12-22 mm long and has 4 lobes with conspicuous plaits between the lobes. Corolla lobes spread open during mid-day but are otherwise twisted closed. The narrowly elliptic, stalked capsule is ca. 1 cm long.

Flowering in June-August; variable with elevation.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Gentiana aquatica is very similar but has white flowers and usually occurs at lower elevations. Gentiana glauca has creeping stems but usually bears more than one flower per stem.

Range Comments
Circumboreal, south in western North America to CA and CO; S. America. Sparse.

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 2

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Moist tundra, rock ledges, and gravelly soil in the alpine zone.

The following animal species have been reported as pollinators of this plant species or its genus where their geographic ranges overlap: Bombus appositus, Bombus fervidus, Bombus flavifrons, Bombus sylvicola, Bombus pensylvanicus, and Bombus kirbiellus (Colla and Dumesh 2010, Pyke et al. 2012, Williams et al. 2014, Ogilvie and Thomson 2015).

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Colla, S.R. and S. Dumesh. 2010. The bumble bees of southern Ontario: notes on natural history and distribution. Journal of the Entomological Society of Ontario 141: 39-68.
    • Ogilvie, J.E. and J.D. Thomson. 2015. Male bumble bees are important pollinators of a late-blooming plant. Arthropod-Plant Interactions 9:205-213.
    • Pyke, G.H., D.W. Inouye, and J.D. Thomson. 2012. Local geographic distributions of bumble bees near Crested Butte, Colorado: competition and community structure revisited. Environmental Entomology 41(6): 1332-1349.
    • Williams, P., R. Thorp, L. Richardson, and S. Colla. 2014. Bumble Bees of North America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 208 p.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
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    • Achuff, P. L. and L. S. Roe. 1992. Botanical survey of the Goat Flat proposed Research Natural Area, Deerlodge National Forest. Unpublished report to the Deerlodge National Forest. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, MT. 31 pp.
    • Culver, D.R. 1994. Floristic analysis of the Centennial Region, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Montana State University, Bozeman. 199 pp.
    • Fertig, W. and M. Bynum. 1994. Biological report on the proposed Twin Lakes Research Natural Area. Unpublished report to the Shoshone National Forest. Wyoming Natural Diversity Database, Laramie, Wyoming. 33 pp. plus appendices.
    • Iltis, H.H. 1965. The genus Gentianopsis (Gentianaceae): transfers and phytogeographic comments. Sida 2:129-153.
    • Lesica, P. 1993. Vegetation and flora of the Line Creek Plateau area, Carbon County, Montana. Unpublished report to USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, Montana. 30 pp.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
    • Spira, T.P. 1984. Comparative demography of alpine biennial and perennial gentians (Gentiana spp.) in California. American Journal of Botany 71:90.
    • Spira, T.P. and O.D. Pollak. 1986. Comparative reproductive biology of alpine biennial and perennial gentians (Gentiana: Gentianaceae) in California. American Journal of Botany 73(1):39-47.
    • Williams, K.L. 2012. Classification of the grasslands, shrublands, woodlands, forests and alpine vegetation associations of the Custer National Forest portion of the Beartooth Mountains in southcentral Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 376 p.
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Citation for data on this website:
Pygmy Gentian — Gentiana prostrata.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from