The second last entry in the series on Gentianaceae takes us to the Páramo of southern Ecuador, a high-altitude grassland ecosystem dominated by bunch-grasses. Another big thank you to Eric in SF@Flickr for sharing his photographs (original image | Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool).
The question was asked by Mary Hamilton in the comment section to Gentiana calycosa as to whether one of the “closed gentians” (that can be seen in New Jersey) would be featured. Mary was probably thinking of Gentiana andrewsii (see more photos), but there are other “closed” gentians and gentian relatives, including Gentianella quinquefolia and today’s species, Gentianella hirculus.
Gentianella means “dwarf gentian” — today’s species reaches only 10cm (4in.) tall. The centre of diversity for the genus is South America, though the two hundred plus species are distributed throughout most temperate regions of the world. Gentianella hirculus is considered endangered by the IUCN Red List, with only 12 populations of plants remaining in the wild. Threats include grazing and, paradoxically, visitors to the park where most (all?) plants reside.