Gentianella ciliata (Fringed Gentian)
A biennial, or perhaps annual, herb of chalk grassland, growing in shortly-grazed, herb-rich turf on a steep W.-facing slope. Lowland.
or alien. Although first reported as G. ciliata from Wendover (Bucks.) in 1875, these plants were subsequently dismissed as Campanula glomerata until the species was re-discovered, in perhaps the same field, in 1982. This, the only known extant population, is variable in size, reaching a peak in the late 1980s but since declining to almost none. Recent study of herbarium specimens has revealed previously unknown collections from Wiltshire (1892) and Surrey (1910), the latter being considered an alien.
Eurosiberian Temperate element, with a continental distribution in W. Europe.
Light (Ellenberg): 8
Moisture (Ellenberg): 3
Reaction (Ellenberg): 8
Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 2
Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0
January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.3
July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 16.1
Annual Precipitation (mm): 782
Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 2
Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0
Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0
RDB Species Accounts
Gentianella ciliata (L.) Borkh. (Gentianaceae)
Gentiana ciliata L.
Status in Britain: CRITICALLY ENDANGERED. WCA Schedule 8.
Status in Europe: Not threatened.
In Britain, G. ciliata has been recorded as a presumed native at two sites, but is now extant in only one. A small population occurs near the top of a steep, west-facing, species-rich chalk grassland slope near Wendover. Species in the immediate vicinity include Brachypodium sylvaticum, Briza media, Campanula rotundifolia, Cirsium acaule, Cynosurus cristatus, Euphrasia officinalis, Festuca ovina, Filipendula vulgaris, Galium verum, Helianthemum nummularium, Koeleria macrantha, Leontodon hispidus, Lotus corniculatus, Sanguisorba minor, Succisa pratensis, Thymus polytrichus and Trifolium pratense.
It is considered to be a biennial in Britain, and requires areas of bare ground for successful germination. These conditions are provided at Wendover by sheep- and rabbit-grazing keeping the turf open. In 1982, 50 plants were noted. Numbers reached a peak in 1987 with 150 recorded, but there has been a subsequent decline and only about ten were present in 1993, fifteen in 1994 and none seen in 1996. Evidence suggests that reducing the height of the sward during the winter and the removing leaf litter might be beneficial, and it is hoped that sheep-grazing, recently reintroduced by the National Trust, will provide such conditions.
The history of G. ciliata in Britain is of particular interest (Knipe 1988). It was first found in 1875 "in a hill near Wendover" and a specimen of that date is in the herbarium of the Natural History Museum, London. It was initially determined as G. pneumonanthe (Anon. 1875), but later named, correctly, as G. ciliata (Britten 1879). However, Druce (1926) then dismissed the record as representing Campanula glomerata, having failed to examine the specimen or properly investigate the record. Since the re-discovery of G. ciliata at perhaps the original site at Wendover by P.Phillipson in 1982, two other records have come to light. The first is represented by a herbarium specimen at Kew of a plant collected in 1910 at Limpsfield, Surrey, but the plant is considered to be an introduction there (Taylor & Rich 1997). The second is a herbarium specimen at the Natural History Museum of plants collected in chalk grassland at Pitton, Wiltshire in 1892 (Dowlan & Ho 1995). The latter site is now a set-aside field, and intensive searches of chalk grassland nearby have been unsuccessful. That the Wendover colony remained undetected for such a long time is somewhat puzzling, especially since it is a well botanised area, but its late flowering and small population are likely contributory reasons. Furthermore, the colony is very restricted in area, with only a few flowers appearing in recent years, which may have always been the case.
Except in the extreme west, G. ciliata is widespread in continental Europe including most of the islands, extending northwards to northern France, the Netherlands and Germany (Pritchard & Tutin 1972). It occurs in meadows and wood margins, and in Limburg, the Netherlands, it occurs on steep well-drained chalk slopes.
L. Farrell and M. J. Wigginton
PLANTATT - Attributes of British and Irish plants. (.zip 1455KB) This dataset was compiled and published in 2004, and last updated in November 2008. Download includes an Excel spreadsheet of the attributes, and a PDF explaining the background and nomenclature. Note that the PDF version is the booklet as published, whereas the Excel spreadsheet incorporates subsequent corrections. A hardcopy can be purchased from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
Atlas text references
Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols,
, Königstein, (1986)
Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 2. 2 vols,
, Jena, (1978)
British Red Data Books. 1. Vascular plants, edn 3,
, Peterborough, (1999)