My last photographs for the series on the Gentianaceae today, though the series will continue until Friday.
These images were taken in mid-July 2009 northeast of the Lick Creek Campground in northeast Oregon, part of the USA’s Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. I believe this particular plant was spotted by my traveling companion, and I was quite delighted to see it in person, as I had only known it from books previously.
A close relative of Frasera speciosa, white-stemmed (= albicaulis) frasera occupies a different habitat. Where Frasera speciosa is a species typically found in moist alpine or subalpine meadows, the much shorter (to 75cm / 30in) Frasera albicaulis tends to be a species of dry, open sites (including sagebrush-steppe). In this case, it was growing roadside in an open area heavily dotted with pieces of gravel with a low-growing species of Allium (the purple spots in the background of the second photograph).
While I was intrigued most by the unusual colours of its flowers, others have been more interested in its roots. A 1968 paper by Stout et al. in Tetrahedron explains the investigation of the roots for the presence of xanthones: Xanthones of the Gentianaceae–II *1: Frasera albicaulis Dougl. ex Griesb.. While many xanthones (i.e., molecules using xanthone as a central core molecule) were and are produced synthetically, fifteen different kinds were found in the roots of Frasera albicaulis — ten of which had previously not been known to occur in nature. Xanthone proper is used in the production of insecticides, while some of the synthetic xanthones are involved in the manufacture of UV-resistant films.
Frasera albicaulis is native to western North America. For more photographs and a description of the species, see the Burke Museum’s page: Frasera albicaulis.