Early gentian

Gentianella anglica

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  3. Early gentian

About

This rare annual or biennial wildflower is only found in the UK. It grows on south-facing slopes with thin soil which are grazed to keep the vegetation cover low. Loss of lowland chalk grassland habitat and declines in grazing has meant this species is becoming rarer. 

How to identify

Purple trumpet shaped flowers with fine white hairs inside. Green leaves are long and narrow and grow directly from the stem with no individual stalks.

Where to find it

Central southern England

Habitats

When to find it

  • May
  • June

How can people help

Early gentian prefer chalk downland habitats - patchworks of chalk grassland, heath, scrub and ponds found on chalk hills. Areas of rare and unique wildlife, chalk grasslands, in particular, have been likened to a rainforest for the diversity of species they hold. But they are being lost at an alarming rate due to changes in land use causing the decline of grazing: it's estimated that we've lost 80% of our chalk grassland over the last 60 years. The Wildlife Trusts manage many grassland and downland nature reserves for the benefit of the rare wildlife they hold. You can help too: volunteer for your local Wildlife Trust and you could be involved in everything from scrub-cutting to stockwatching.

Species information

Common name
Early gentian
Latin name
Gentianella anglica
Category
Wildflowers
Statistics
Stem up to 20cm, petals 13-20mm
Conservation status
Nationally scarce and protected species under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act