Species Profile

Victorin's Gentian

Scientific Name: Gentianopsis virgata ssp. victorinii
Other/Previous Names: Gentiana victorinii,Gentianopsis victorinii,Gentianopsis procera macounii var. victorinii
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
COSEWIC Range: Quebec
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: May 2004
COSEWIC Status: Threatened
COSEWIC Status Criteria: D2
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: A geographically highly restricted and short-lived annual or biennial that is endemic to the freshwater or slightly brackish shoreline areas of the St. Lawrence River estuary in Quebec. It is present at 28 extant sites but in very small localized habitats where it is at risk from a wide range of impacts. These include habitat disruption by ATVs, shoreline in-filling, mowing of vegetation, picking of flowers and potentially from oil spills.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Special Concern in April 1987. Status re-examined and designated Threatened in May 2004.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Threatened
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2005-07-14

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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Image of Victorin's Gentian

Victorin's Gentian Photo 1



Since it was first described in 1923, Victorin’s Gentian has undergone several taxonomic changes. The following scientific names are all pertinent synonyms: Gentiana victorinii Fern., Gentianella crinita (Froel.) G. Don ssp. victorinii (Fern.) J.M. Gillett and Gentianopsis victorinii (Fernald) Iltis.



Victorin’s Gentian is an erect annual or biennial plant. This herbaceous plant originates from a small, sparsely branched root and measures 10 to 50 cm in height. The hairless stem can be simple or branched. The stem is cylindrical at the base, becoming hexagonal in the middle. The stem leaves are slightly fleshy and asymmetrical; they are shaped like narrow lances and measure between 1 and 6 cm in length. The leaves face each other and issue directly from the stem. One to four spatula-shaped leaf pairs grow in a rosette at the base of the plant. Victorin’s Gentian bears from 1 to 30 flowers on a quadrangular peduncle that is strongly ribbed along its length. The calyx, formed by four green sepals joined along nearly half their length, surrounds the outer part of the flower. Two of the sepals are lance-shaped and the other two are shorter and shaped like an egg with a flattened base. The corolla is formed by four purplish petals and measures 3.5 to 4.5 cm in length at maturity. The petals are joined along three fifths of their length and end in a lobe with a finely serrated tip and a slightly lacerate margin. At the preflowering stage, the lobes are rolled into a horn shape. Each flower produces a fruit measuring 3 to 3.8 cm in length. The fruit is a capsule that opens at maturity. Each fruit contains approximately 400 brown seeds.


Distribution and Population

Victorin’s Gentian occurs exclusively in Quebec, in the St. Lawrence River estuary. It grows only in intertidal zones; that is, zones between the high and low tide lines where the water is fresh or slightly brackish. The southwest boundary is at Deschambault and Lotbinière, while the northeast boundary is at Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies and l’Île-aux-Oies. The species is currently found in 28 existing locations. In total, there are 43 known sites in the country; 8 of these are historic and 7 have disappeared. In 2003, the total number of flowering plants was estimated to be between 1700 and 6000. Since 1986, the discovery of new populations has resulted in a significant increase in the number of known individual Victorin’s Gentian specimens. Seven of these populations alone (Deschambault, Pointe-Platon in Sainte-Croix, Pointe d’Argentenay in Saint-François, Grosse-Île, Pointe de Saint-Vallier in Saint-Vallier, Sainte-Augustin-de-Desmaures, and Anse chez Porteous in Sainte-Pétronille) account for more than three quarters of the total population of Victorin’s Gentian in Quebec. Trends for numbers of existing sites and populations are unknown. However, increased population numbers are a reflection of more sustained research efforts. New populations may yet be discovered along the St. Lawrence River. While the general status of the populations appears to be stable, the populations could still be affected by certain threats.



Victorin’s Gentian grows exclusively in the intertidal zones of the St. Lawrence estuary in fresh or slightly brackish water. The habitat in Quebec is limited by the low tidal range upstream from Deschambault and the high water salinity in the Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies region downstream. During the equinoctial high tides, the gentian is under water for two to three hours a day. However, it is seldom reached by low tides or by high tides with a low tidal range. The species prefers habitats with a high concentration of Prairie Cord Grass (a tall and dense graminaceous plant), although Victorin’s Gentian is occasionally found on raised outcrops with more or less dense vegetation. It prefers thick surface deposits of over 15 cm of fine or mixed materials, and rarely very stony soil. Victorin’s Gentian shares its habitat with two other species considered by COSEWIC to be of special concern: Provancher’s Fleabane and Victorin’s Water-hemlock.



Victorin’s Gentian is an annual or biennial plant with a short lifespan. This plant flowers from mid-July to mid-September. The flowers undergo periodic sleep movements: they remain closed on dark days and during submersion by the tide, which temporarily prevents pollinating insects from accessing them. Pollination depends on a variety of insects, including bumble bees, which are attracted by the nectar secreted at the base of the stamens. Seed production appears to be the sole reproductive method for this species. Fruiting begins in August and continues until October. The seeds of Victorin’s Gentian float, even though they are denser than water, due to small structures that act as floats. Consequently, they are carried offshore by tidal and wave movements. In addition to this water dispersal method, it is likely that the seeds are transported over great distances in the muddy mixture that sticks to the feet of birds.



The most significant threats to Victorin’s Gentian are human trampling and all-terrain vehicle (ATV) traffic. In addition to killing individual plants, ATV traffic radically alters the fragile balance of this species’ habitat. Since this habitat is strictly limited to intertidal zones, the species cannot colonize other sites. Moreover, highway and railway construction on the flats of the St. Lawrence River, shoreline filling and the construction of residential retaining walls have resulted in a sharp decline of the number of potentially suitable habitats. Fortunately, the introduction of stricter environmental laws appears to have slowed or halted this trend. Since the mowing of shoreline vegetation and the gathering of flowers deprive Victorin’s Gentian of its sole means of reproduction, these activities also pose a real threat that could lead to the disappearance of this species in certain sites. Ice crashing on rocks and shores as a result of daily tide movements in winter and during the spring ice breakup can uproot individual plants. In addition, water quality and levels can cause plants to be buried beneath plant debris. Finally, these shoreline populations could be destroyed in the event of an oil spill.



Federal Protection

The Victorin's 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.

Currently, two sites (Anse Saint-Vallier and Grosse-Île) are located within the boundaries of protected areas: the Saint-Vallier Migratory Bird Sanctuary, and the Grosse-Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site of Canada. Other vaguely identified historic populations may also be located within the boundaries of other protected areas: the migratory bird sanctuaries of L’Islet, Cap-Saint-Ignace and Trois-Saumons. In addition, the Nature Conservancy of Canada–Quebec owns part of the site where the population in Pointe de Saint-Vallier, Saint-Vallier, is found. However, the majority of Victorin’s Gentian populations in Quebec are on land that has no conservation status and whose ownership is unclear. The Regulation respecting motor vehicle traffic in certain fragile environments protects its habitat against the impact of the most significant threat to its survival. In addition, Quebec policy concerning the protection of banks, littoral zones and floodplains seeks to maintain and improve water quality by ensuring a minimally adequate level of shoreline protection.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

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


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for Victorin’s Gentian (Gentianopsis virgata ssp. victorinii) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry


Recovery Team

Contact Person for Recovery Planning

  • Québec: Unité de planification de la conservation - Service canadien de la faune - Chair/Contact -
     Send Email


Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date There are 45 known populations of this taxon endemic to the St. Lawrence estuary. Of this number, 18 occurrences have disappeared or have not been seen again in over 25 years. More than three quarters of the 27 populations subsisting to date have low numbers. Despite this worrying finding, there is no fear for the survival of the species, since the majority of its viable populations are protected or covered by conservation projects. Summary of Research and Monitoring Activities Recent surveys provide a good picture of the species’ distribution and abundance. Public land tenure must be confirmed at some locations before floristic habitats are established. Summary of Restoration Activities The Provancher Natural History Society of Canada has purchased a riparian zone essential to Victorin’s gentian to prevent the site development and reduce the risk of destruction of the species by land users. The lands acquired are integrated into the Léon Provancher Marsh territory in Quebec, a protected natural site managed by the Society. Two floristic habitats were established under the Act respecting threatened or vulnerable species in 2005. Two other excellent quality populations are protected by an ecological reserve and a national historic site, while the Fondation québécoise pour la protection du patrimoine naturel has acquired the site where one of the largest populations occurs and has been involved in riparian landowners awareness activities since 2002. A Scientific Advisory Committee on the threatened flora of the freshwater estuary, bringing together key stakeholders, was established in 2005. Relying on concerted action and sharing of existing knowledge, resources and tools, the Committee’s objective is to develop work plans based on priorities and threats and to implement the resulting actions. In addition to considerations specific to the conservation of Victorin’s fringed gentian (Gentianopsis victorinii), it would be necessary to develop a multispecific or ecosystemic approach to assure the long-term protection and survival of the special flora complex endemic to the St. Lawrence estuary. Indeed, three taxa designated as threatened and nine others likely to be designated as threatened or vulnerable are attracted to similar habitats, often on the same sites where Victorian’s gentian is established. URLs Plantes menacées ou vulnérables au Québechttp://www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca/biodiversite/especes/gentianopsis-victorin/genti-victorin.htm (available in French only)


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.

8 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Victorin's Gentian (macounii) (2004-10-22)

    A geographically highly restricted and short-lived annual or biennial that is endemic to the freshwater or slightly brackish shoreline areas of the St. Lawrence River estuary in Quebec. It is present at 28 extant sites but in very small localized habitats where it is at risk from a wide range of impacts. These include habitat disruption by ATVs, shoreline in-filling, mowing of vegetation, picking of flowers and potentially from oil spills.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Victorin's Gentian (Gentianopsis virgata ssp. victorinii) in Canada (2012-10-23)

    The Victorin’s Gentian (Gentianopsis virgata ssp. victorinii) was listed as threatened in Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in July 2005. The Minister of the Environment and the Minister responsible for Parks Canada are the ministers responsible for the recovery of Victorin’s Gentian and have developed this recovery strategy pursuant to section 37 of SARA. This recovery strategy was prepared in collaboration with the Government of Quebec (Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs).

Action Plans

  • Action Plan for the Victorin’s Gentian (Gentianopsis virgata ssp. victorinii) in Canada (2014-10-30)

    The Victorin’s Gentian is an endemic herbaceous annual or biennial plant that grows mainly along the upper shoreline of the freshwater or slightly brackish marshes of the St. Lawrence River estuary area in Quebec. The Victorin’s Gentian was listed as Threatened on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act in July 2005. The Minister of the Environment and the Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency are the competent ministers for the recovery of the Victorin’s Gentian and have prepared this action plan to implement the recovery strategy, as per section 49 of SARA. It has been prepared in cooperation with the Government of Quebec. This action plan follows from the Recovery Strategy for the Victorin’s Gentian (Gentianopsis virgata ssp. Victorinii) in Canada.


  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (2004-10-19)

    The Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of wildlife species done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act (volume 139, number 15, 2005) (2005-07-27)

    The Minister of the Environment is recommending, pursuant to section 27 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), that 43 species be added to Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. This recommendation is based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and on consultations with governments, Aboriginal peoples, wildlife management boards, stakeholders and the Canadian public.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2004 (2004-09-16)

    2004 Annual Report to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: November 2004 (2004-11-23)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.
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