Plymouth Gentian, A Wetland Treasure
Michael Hagen is the NYBG’s Curator of the Native Plant Garden and the Rock Garden. He previously served as Staff Horticulturist for Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring, NY and Garden Manager at Rocky Hills, in Mt. Kisco, a preservation project of the Garden Conservancy.
Summer’s definitive arrival has brought bold sweeps of color across the Native Plant Garden’s Meadow, and with so much in bloom it might be easy to overlook one of the gems of the garden, the delicate pink and white open blooms of Plymouth gentian (Sabatia kennedyana).
By its flower alone, with its delicate rayed petals and yellow and red central markings, you might mistake this flower for an unusually colored Coreopsis or perhaps a daisy, but when you see its tall, upright stems growing where it’s happy—along the wet edge of the pond next to the Boardwalk, or in among bachelor’s buttons (Marshallia grandiflora) and pitcher plants (Sarracenia sp.)—it’s hard not to realize that this beauty is something very special.
Plymouth Gentian has a patchy distribution in the wild, and can be found in just a few sunny spots in wet, open ground along the sandy and peaty shores of coastal streams and lakes from Nova Scotia to South Carolina. It is one of the few species of Sabatia that is reliably perennial among the 18 or so mostly annual or biennial species that are native to North America.