White Delights: Pinewoods Rose Gentian


While exceptions certainly exist, most flowers in the Gentian family range from light pinks to a deeper, rosier hue. The specific epithet of the Pinewoods Rose Gentian, Sabatia gentianoides, means ‘resembling a gentian,’ suggesting that range of pinkish colors.  (The genus name honors Liberato Sabbati (1714-1778), an Italian botanist and gardener.) 

When I noticed this striking white flower in a wet area of the Big Thicket’s Sundew Trail, I thought I might have found Sabatia brevifolia, a white Sabatia species found in Florida and adjacent states. Despite both plants’ preference for boggy areas or wet pine savannahs, a closer look revealed some differences: eight petals for S. gentianoides rather than S. brevifolia‘s five, and noticeably larger flowers.

Unlike Sabatia campestris, the meadow pink common in coastal and central Texas, S. gentianoides displays flowers two or more inches wide, with seven to twelve petals. When the blooms cluster together, as they often do, they can be particularly appealing.

White forms of the meadow pink aren’t particularly common, but I have encountered them. Despite an extensive online search for a white form of the pinewoods rose gentian, I’ve yet to find a photo of another. I’m glad I found this one, tucked away in its bog.


Comments always are welcome.

49 thoughts on “White Delights: Pinewoods Rose Gentian

  1. Gorgeous!! And what a treat for you to find it … and for us to enjoy it! The pink ones are stunning, but there’s something extra-special about coming across this white specimen.

    1. The pink ones really stand out, even though they’re such a nice soft pink, but that white one was quite a sight in the shady area where I found it. These flowers are charming even when they’re fading. One that I found among the longleaf pines is my favorite; I’m saving it for its own post, so it can be the star of the show!

    1. Do you mean a white variant, or the pink ones? I assumed they were in your area, but I just looked and saw they aren’t listed for Montgomery County, or north and west of their, so they might not be in one of your favorite hiking areas. They seem to have a fairly long season, so if you make it to the Big Thicket again this fall, they ought to be around.

    1. I did know that. Anita Tiller came to one of our Native Plant Society meetings a couple of years ago, and gave a wonderful presentation about their native and rare plant collections, as well as their collecting work.

      It didn’t occur to me until I started thinking about Mercer that you may have developed your interest in gingers there. Apparently they have quite a collection of those, too.

  2. What sweet blooms! Nice that you have come across the white one. I’m especially fond of white flowers, but that pink one won’t be denied!

    1. You know me and pink flowers — but this is one that I really like. It’s not just the color; it’s the growth habit, too. I’ll be posting a photo of one of these in early decline that’s gorgeous — at least, to my eye. It doesn’t have the fluorescence of some of the ‘hot’ pinks; it’s far more subtle.

      Part of the fun of finding white variants is that I never know in the beginning if I’ve really found an ‘oddity,’ or if the flower’s a completely different species.

      1. Haha, I chuckled at your pink comment. It’s a really pretty pink, not too cloyingly pink!

        Yes, the white forms are definitely interesting. Years ago, someone gave me a seedling Salvia coccinea, Tropical Sage–blooming red. Since that time, many, many have germinated and grown in my garden (they’re one of my favorites!), but mostly, my volunteers are white. In fact, I’ve grown to like the white more than the red: they’re hardier, attract more varied pollinators, and bloom more. The red are gorgeous, but those white flowers sure have a place in my heart and my garden. And, a bunch of other gardens too.

  3. The white flower is so lovely and delicate. Made my day just to see a picture of it. Somehow, I imagine it would smell like a mayflower, although I suspect this is probably not the case.

    1. I hate to confess this, but my only associations with ‘mayflower’ have been a certain famous ship and a moving company. I looked up the flower, and it’s certainly a pretty thing. I’ve not noticed any scent at all, though. Perhaps it’s flashy enough that it doesn’t need fragrance to attract pollinators.

    1. Speaking of sneezing, your ragweed and such must be coming into their own. When the strong north winds started blowing a week or two ago, there clearly was something in the air. It’s one of the signs of fall around here: the annual visit by central Texas pollen.

      I was pleased with each of these photos, but especially so with the white one. I think the time I spent trying to photograph the white milkweed in the San Bernard shade was time well spent.

    1. These begin blooming in March, and do peak in June, but they continue on through August. This year, I found them well into September, probably because of the rains and moderating temperatures. Now, they’re fading away, and they’re just as beautiful now. My next post will be a recent capture of a fading cluster.

      The white one’s a beauty, isn’t it? There isn’t always one in every crowd, but when there is, it’s special.

  4. The white flower looks so pure and delicate – but they’re all lovely and it must feel very special to find such beauties.

    1. It’s one reason I love heading out into the woods or prairies; there’s just no predicting what I’ll find. As irrational as it is, I sometimes feel as though Nature has keyed into the fact that I love unusual white flowers, and that she provides them whenever she can.

  5. That odd little florette (?) (pistil?) sticking out from the cluster of stamens is very unusual. The rhythmic quality of that last photo recalls a certain fin de siecle art movement we both know and love . . .

    1. Here’s a closeup of the flower’s center. Everything’s nice and straight and perky when it first blooms. I don’t know, but suspect, that the pistil lays over once pollination has taken place, much like the white spot on a bluebonnet floret turns from white to red as it ages, and pollen is less available.

    1. Even better, they have a fairly long season generally, and have lingered even a little longer this year. Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly which season we’re in; our rains over the past month seem to have encouraged even plants that normally would be fading by now to put on one more growth spurt. Even some of the trees are doing it, which is really odd to see. While you’re getting those fabulous colors, we’re getting a little extra green.

    1. Isn’t it wonderful? If you ever wanted to draw these, let me know. I have some other photos from different angles that are pretty, and my next post is going to be another cluster.

    1. Actually, these are a different Sabatia species. The meadow pinks, S. campestris, certainly are similar, but they tend to be found in (ta-da!) meadows and such rather than the pine savannahs and boggy places where the pinewoods rose gentian flourishes. Here’s a meadow pink photo for comparison. They’re so much alike it’s easy to confuse them — exactly like I confuse those Little Brown Birds!

      1. Ha! As this linked page says, that’s the problem with common names. Apparently ‘meadow pink’ is used for all the species there in Florida, while we use different common names for the different Sabatia species: at least that’s what I’m accustomed to.

        In the process of figuring that out, I discovered that you have yet another pink species, S. grandiflora. How confusing it all can be!

  6. It must be so nice to go out in the woods or into bogs and discover beauty and flowers. My brother developed a passion for native orchids and I used to go with him trying to find them. Mostly we did and it was such an exciting experience.

    1. Your experience with your brother reminds me of my eye doctor. He has a friend he travels with in search of rare flowers, and while the friend is the knowledgeable botanist and a great photographer, my doctor says there’s nothing like trailing along with him, and learning new things every time. Of course, just being outdoors has its own pleasures. For the most part our outdoor areas are open for exploration now, and it’s a blessing I don’t take lightly.

  7. The white is so pure and perfect, and the pink is so intense and vivid. The light certainly is captured within the flowers themselves and shines wonderfully. Lovely discoveries, Linda.

    1. In the case of the white flower, the shade was perfect: not too dark, not too deep. And you’re right that there’s just ‘something’ about these flowers. Both pink and white can seem lit from within; they’re certainly easy to spot.

    1. I was lucky not only to find the white one, but also to find such a lovely specimen. The petal edges just had started to curl, but nothing had stopped by for a nibble. For that matter, the pink were in fine condition, too — double luck!

  8. The gentians I see here are different species than yours but, according to GoBotany, can be white also. I’ve not seen any and they do not show any examples on their site. But I have seen Greater Fringed Gentians-Gentianopsis crinita with some white variegation on some of the blue blooms.
    Yours are quite lovely, all three, and I bet you could qualify for the Texas version of the Guinness Book of Records for flowers.

    1. Hmmm.. I’d always thought my entry into the Guinness Book would be for my work as the world’s oldest active varnisher. Being added to the Texas Flower category would be fine by me, though. I was lucky as can be to spot this white one, although once I was in the vicinity, seeing it wasn’t hard at all. It really did shine.

        1. Surely I’ve told you what I’d want for an epitaph on my gravestone — if I were to have such, which I almost certainly won’t. Don’t you think this would work nicely? “She Varnished From Our Sight”

          1. Ha. No, I don’t think you told me that, but then my memory is spotty in general. Yes, that would be good…especially if you are cremated and scattered on a windy day.

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