Species Profile

White Prairie Gentian

Scientific Name: Gentiana alba
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
COSEWIC Range: Ontario
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2010
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: B1ab(iii)+2ab(iii); D1
COSEWIC Reason for Designation:

This showy perennial exists in Canada as a single small population within a remnant oak savannah habitat in southwestern Ontario. The small population size and impacts from potential threats such as increased shading, trampling, and genetic contamination through hybridization with a common native species of gentian, places the species at on-going risk.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Endangered in April 1991. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2001 and November 2010.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2003-06-05

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of White Prairie Gentian

White Prairie Gentian Photo 1

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Description

The White Prairie Gentian is an herbaceous perennial which often sprawls. Its leaves are oval, large and yellowish-green. The flowering stems measure from 30 to 90 cm; the flowers occur in dense clusters at the top of the stem. In Ontario, new flowers are usually greenish-white.

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Distribution and Population

The main range of the species is centred in the plains of the U.S. Midwest. In Canada, the extant population of the White Prairie Gentian is restricted to Walpole Island, in the delta of the St. Clair River, in Lambton County, southern Ontario. A survey in 2000 inventoried a total of 45 individual plants in three sites on Walpole Island. This is an increase of 26 plants over the 19 inventoried in 1989. However, in 1989, one of the sites supported only two plants which has now been reduced to one.

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Habitat

The White Prairie Gentian is found in oak-hickory savannahs, and prefers well drained, calcareous soils or limestone; it is usually found in areas that are frequently disturbed by fire. The White Prairie Gentian is associated with tall grass prairie species, and does not like shade.

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Biology

In Ontario, the White Prairie Gentian flowers from mid-August to late September. Small plants (those under 20 cm) have few or no flowers, while the large plants have up to 10 flowering stems. The White Prairie Gentian is pollinated almost exclusively by bumble bees. In the fall, the fruit splits in two and releases hundreds of tiny seeds which are dispersed by the wind.

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Threats

Loss of habitat is the main limiting factor for the White Prairie Gentian in Canada. Habitat is lost through activities such as quarrying of sandpits, home construction, development of a landfill, a cemetery, and agriculture, expansion of roads and trails and ATV traffic. The control of fires by man can also limit the populations of White Prairie Gentians, since the control of fire permits the growth of shrubs and trees, which create shade; White Prairie Gentians do not survive in shaded areas.

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Protection

Federal Protection

The White Prairie Gentian is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the White Prairie Gentian (Gentiana alba) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

6 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Update Status Report on the White Prairie Gentian (Gentiana alba) in Canada (2011-09-09)

    The white prairie gentian can grow to a height of 90 cm but generally flops onto adjacent vegetation. Plants produce up to a dozen or more stems with fleshy, yellowish-green, opposite leaves surmounted by a cluster of greenish-white to yellowish-white erect flowers. It is our only native gentian with the above characters. Besides flower and leaf colour, white prairie gentian can be distinguished from white forms of the closely related bottle gentian, G. andrewsii, by its keeled sepals. The sepals of the bottle gentian have no keels. The scientific name of the species is the subject of taxonomic dispute; some authorities support Gentiana alba and others G. flavida. Common names are white prairie gentian, white gentian, pale gentian, yellowish gentian and yellow gentian.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - White Prairie Gentian (2011-12-08)

    This showy perennial exists in Canada as a single small population within a remnant oak savannah habitat in southwestern Ontario. The small population size and impacts from potential threats such as increased shading, trampling, and genetic contamination through hybridization with a common native species of gentian, places the species at on-going risk.

Recovery Strategies

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2010 - 2011 (2011-09-09)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings during the past year assessing the status or reviewing the classification of a total of 92 wildlife species.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing permit(#19), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2006-06-01)

    Activities may include any of the following for any species: Collection of small amounts of seed (<1%) for propagation ex situ for the pupose of studying seed viability, germination condisions and rates. Collection of a mall proportion (<1%) of inflorescences or flowers for the purpose of determining fertility, seed predation rates, etc. Removal of a small number (<0.1%) of individuals of annual species (e.g. Agalinus spp.) for research on habitat and microsite requirements. Collection of seed for the purpose of propagation ex situ plants to provide material for research and/or for restoration projects. Mapping location, counting and setting up permanent study quadrats may sometime involve accidental trampling of some plants and portions of some habitat. This will be kept to a minimum. Some perturbation of habitat may occur during removal of invasive species. Some experimental purturbation of habitat for restoration purposes may be done in locations where species at risk are thought to be extirpated.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#SARA-OR-2008-0085), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2008-05-13)

    Activities will include census of populations of White Prairie Gentian, Showy Golden Rod, Pink Milkwort and Small White Ladies Slipper on Walpole Island First Nation; collection of sample leaves from White Prairie Gentian for genetic analysis; detailed measurements and collection of limited fruit capsules from Small White Ladies Slipper; and collection of small amounts of seeds from White Prairie Gentian, Showy Goldenrod, Pink Milkwort, Kentucky Coffee Tree and Common Hop Tree for propagation ex situ for the purpose studying seed viability, germination conditions and rates, and eventual planting of propagated plants to a protected tallgrass prairie / oak savanna / woodland restoration sites on the Walpole Island First Nation. Some experimental perturbation of habitat for restoration purposes may be done in locations where species at risk are thought to be extirpated.
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