At this time of the year on the Shorepine Bog trail in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve two different species of gentians are blooming. Both are easy to see with a little effort and can be found in bogs and wet areas on Vancouver Island.
King Gentian (Gentiana sceptrum) is a beautiful plant with a cluster of blue flowers at the top of the stem. The flowers are tubular and have 5 flaring lobes. The leaves of this plant are opposite and oblong-lance shaped. King Gentian is so called because the flowers look like a sceptre, hence the “king gentian.”
Swamp Gentian (Gentiana douglasiana) is a much smaller plant with white flowers that are tubular or funnel-like in shape. The white petals often are spotted with puple and become yellow towards the center of the flower tube. Swamp Gentian flowers are either solitary or occur as a flat-topped cluster at the top of the stem. The species name “douglasiana” is in reference to David Douglas, a Scottish botanist who’s name is associated with many west-coast plants.
It’s difficult to decide which of these flowers is more beautiful. Neither has a noticeable scent so they can’t be separated on the basis of fragrance. King Gentian is definitely the more dramatic of the two gentians growing in the bog and is larger in size than the smaller Swamp Gentian. I do like the way that the Swamp Gentian photographs – the shallower flowers and the contrast of the fine spots, white petals and greenish-yellow center make it easy to compose an image. Red mites seemed to be equally impressed with both flowers and I had to wait until they had vacated the flowers to get a “clean” photograph!