In many places, fringed gentian is an unpredictable wildflower. It may be abundant at a locality for years, and then disappear only to be found someplace new. In autumn, careful searchers can find this annual in full bloom among fall grasses and changing leaves along streams. The display is spectacular: one plant can have up to 175 bright blue flowers.
Fringed gentian occurs throughout the eastern United States and Canada, occurring historically at a number of Maryland Piedmont locations. The Maryland sites were all in limestone or serpentine regions. The Piedmont is heavily populated today and available habitat for the gentian has been greatly reduced; today there is only one population in Maryland. In addition, thoughtless picking has also led to its decline. It is against State law to harm the gentians; such laws are necessary to help save the only remaining population of this beautiful plant in Maryland.
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