CPC Plant Profile: Colorado Gentian
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Plant Profile

Colorado Gentian (Frasera coloradensis)

A closeup of the rare Colorado gentian in flower. Photo Credit: J. Locklear
Description
  • Global Rank: G2 - Imperiled
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Gentianaceae
  • State: CO
  • Nature Serve ID: 136431
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 02/25/1988

Geological activity in southeastern Colorado has exposed rock formations buried more deeply in other parts of the plains. The Greenhorn Limestone is one of them, outcropping in a scattering of gentle hills and ridges that appear barren from a distance. The unique chemistry of limestone limits the growth of many plants, but not the Colorado gentian. This beautiful wildflower flourishes on the Greenhorn, and is essentially limited to its outcroppings in this remote corner of Colorado.

Participating Institutions
Updates
  • 09/12/2020
  • Propagation Research

Successfully propagated from seed using cold/moist stratification for 3 months (Nebraska Statewide Arboretum).

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Known only from the southeastern corner of Colorado, where there are about 28 occurrences within less than approximately 300 acres. This species probably has the most limited distribution of any plant endemic to the Great Plains (a floristic region comprised mostly of plants with wide distributions). Cattle are not excluded from most of the sites where the species occurs and mid- to late-summer grazing can prevent the plants from producing mature seed. Population appears healthy throughout its range except where herbicide application has occurred which is mainly along roadsides (Naumann 1991).

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

Inadvertent loss or alteration of naturally limited habitat. Roadside herbicide applications. Tolerates moderate levels of grazing, but may be vulnerable to overgrazing or grazing during reproductive season (Naumann 1991).

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

Approximately 15-20 known occurrences (Naumann 1991).

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

Successfully propagated from seed using cold/moist stratification for 3 months (Nebraska Statewide Arboretum).

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

Not Available

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

Population monitoring. Life history research.

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

Not Available

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Photos
Nomenclature
Taxon Frasera coloradensis
Authority (Rogers) D.M. Post
Family Gentianaceae
CPC Number 1942
ITIS 502652
USDA FRCO7
Common Names Colorado gentian | Colorado green gentian | Colorado frasera
Associated Scientific Names Frasera coloradensis | Swertia coloradensis
Distribution Limited to southeastern Colorado, where it occurs in Baca, Bent, Las Animas and Prowers counties, an area approximately 60 miles long and up to 25 miles wide.
State Rank
State State Rank
Colorado S2S3
Habitat

Surfacing rock outcroppings and shallow, rocky soil derived from the Cretaceous-age Greenhorn Limestone Formation and, to a lesser extent, the calcareous Dakota Sandstone Formation. This sparsely vegetated habitat occurs within shortgrass prairie vegetation. Scattered juniper (Juniperus monosperma) is sometimes in association. Elevation 4000-5500 ft.

Ecological Relationships

Appears to be a monocarpic perennial, with individuals living for several years as a rosette of foliage, and dying the following flowering (Locklear 1988). Occasionally occurs with Haplopappus (Oonopsis) engelmannii, an uncommon regional endemic (Naumann 1991).

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID

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