The leaves are too bitter for most herbivores to eat but that doesn't keep deer from biting off the flowers (Hilty, John 2009).
There are two existing populations on Staten Island, both with under 100 plants each. Most of the 37 historical sites have been developed.
There have not been enough recent surveys to determine the short-term trend.
There has been a sever decline of populations over the last 100 years as the western end of Long Island and New York City has been developed and wetlands have been lost.
Loss of wetland habitat is the primary threat.
The wetland habitats need to remain with an open canopy. Access to the existing populations should be restricted to prevent picking or trampling.
Research is needed into the best approach to augment existing populations.
In New York these wildflowers have been found in wet areas of successional deciduous woodlands, a freshwater swale at the border of a salt marsh, a wet switchgrass meadow, mixed mesophytic forests, a hillside fen, a shrub swamp, and damp areas of the Hempstead Plains (New York Natural Heritage Program 1998). Glades, sandy swamps, shores and bogs (Fernald 1970). Moist woods and thickets (Gleason & Cronquist 1991).
This herb historically ranged from Suffolk County on Long Island west, and north to Dutchess County. It is currently only known from Staten Island as it is now considered extirpated in the rest of New York City.
This is primarily a species of the southeastern US where it extends southwest to Arkansas and Oklahoma, where it is rare, and eastern Texas and Louisiana. It also grows south of Lake Michigan in Indiana and Illinois with a disjunct population in central Wisconsin. It is considered extirpated in Michigan and rare in Ohio. It reaches its northeastern limit in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, where it is also rare.
This wildflower is 2-7 dm tall and has glabrous stems. The leaves are oblong to narrowly elliptic and ciliolate at 10X. The anthers are not divided. The calyx lobes are firm, oblong to oblanceolate, ascending, and ciliolate at 10X magnification. The blue corolla is cylindric-oblanceolate, 1-1.5 cm in diameter and slightly open at the summit at anthesis. The purplish to blue lobes are erect and only slightly longer than the plaits.
Distinguishing characteristics: stem glabrous; leaves oblong to narrowly elliptic, ciliolate at 10X; involucre of 2-4 leaves, the outer 3-6.5 cm long and 0.7-2 cm broad; anthers connate; calyx lobes firm, oblong to oblanceolate, ascending, ciliolate at 10X; corolla cylindric-oblanceolate 1-1.5 cm in diameter at the slightly open summit, more or less open at anthesis; purplish lobes erect, only slightly long than the appendages. Best life stage for ID: in flower. Characteristics needed to ID: stem with mature flowers.
The best time to identify this species is when it has stems with mature flowers.
This is the only bottle gentian in New York that has long, narrow, ciliate calyx lobes, fringe or "plaits" shorter than the petal lobes so the flowers are not white at the top when closed. Its corolla is slightly open at anthesis. The other two similar species, G. andrewsii and G. clausa have not been seen on the coastal plain in decades.
The plants flower from mid-September to mid-November, one of the latest blooms of the year.
The time of year you would expect to find Soapwort Gentian flowering and fruiting in New York.
Gentiana saponaria L.
Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 910 pp.
Clemants, Steven and Carol Gracie. 2006. Wildflowers in the Field and Forest. A Field Guide to the Northeastern United States. Oxford University Press, New York, NY. 445 pp.
Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. 8th edition. D. Van Nostrand, New York. 1632 pp.
Holmgren, Noel. 1998. The Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2010. Biotics database. New York Natural Heritage Program. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2023. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.
Newcomb, Lawrence. 1977. Newcomb's Wildflower Guide: An Ingenious New Key System for Quick, Positive Field Identification of the Wildflowers, Flowering Shrubs, and Vines of Northeastern and North-Central North America. Little, Brown and Company. Boston.
Reschke, Carol. 1990. Ecological communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Latham, NY. 96 pp. plus xi.
Weldy, T. and D. Werier. 2010. New York flora atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research http://www.fccdr.usf.edu/. University of South Florida http://www.usf.edu/]. New York Flora Association http://newyork.plantatlas.usf.edu/, Albany, New York
This guide was authored by: Stephen M. Young
Information for this guide was last updated on: September 20, 2012
Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2023. Online Conservation Guide for Gentiana saponaria. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/soapwort-gentian/. Accessed March 23, 2023.