It is quickly becoming a struggle to find any fresh blooms on my recent hikes.
Late season asters and golden rods are about all we have left these days. I believed that last week, until I stumbled upon a small clump of deep blue flowers.
What I was seeing was a fringed gentian.
They were about a foot tall mixed into a forest of Indian grass.
If it wasn’t for the striking blue, I might have missed them altogether, but against the golden backdrop of fall prairie foliage, they were impossible for my eyes to avoid.
I only see the fringed gentian in high quality natural areas. Unless it has been planted elsewhere, you are likely to encounter in wet sandy soils. The United States Department of Agriculture range map shows us being on the western edge of its distribution.
Draw a line from Minnesota through just south of Kankakee County and over to New Jersey and you will capture almost all its range northeast of that line.
Nature writer Henry David Thoreau wrote about the fringed gentian in his journal on Oct. 19, 1852 – “It is too remarkable a flower not to be sought out and admired each year, however rare. It is one of the errands of the walker, as well as of the bees, for it yields him a more celestial nectar still.”