The Native Plant Society of Northeastern Ohio

The Native Plant Society of Northeastern Ohio
The journal of our Society is named On The Fringe.

 Home Page 

 Schedule of Events 

 Importance of Native Plants 

 Enjoying Native Plants 

 Identifying Native Plants 


 Our Journal 

 Other Organizations 

 Contact Us 

 About Us 

 Join Us 

 Our Grant 

On The Fringe

Journal of the Native Plant Society of Northeastern Ohio

Membership in The Native Plant Society of Northeastern Ohio includes a subscription to On The Fringe, our Society’s journal.  It contains interesting articles about a range of botanical subjects, almost all of which are accessible to those with no formal training in botany.  Take a minute to check out a sample of the table of contents and an article from a recent issue.  (If you were wondering, our journal takes its name, On The Fringe, from the flower pictured in our logo, the fringed gentian.)

On The Fringe
Table of Contents
March 2009
Spring 2009 Wildflower Events
Bats:  Winged Winders – Lori Totman
Degenerate Wildflowers – Marcia Bonta
Harbingers – George Ellison
Sumac:  A shrub For All Seasons – Larry Hodgson
A Brief History of the Cincinnati Wildflower Preservation Society – Victor G. Soukup
Fringed Gentian:  A Rare Gentianopsis – Gordon Mitchell
The Ice Age In Ohio, Part 1 – Michael C. Hanson
Flowering Dogwood–Cornus florida L. – Robert Tener
Old Woman Creek SNP – ODNR
Book Review:  Noah’s Garden – Greg Tillman
Alternatives to Invasive Plants:  Shrubs – Cheryl Lowe
Worm Warfare – Niall Dunne
Garlic Mustard Pesto – Steve Brill
How Do You Tell Native From Non-Native Euonymus Species – Ellen Jacquart

Selected Articles
Scroll down to see these fascinated articles

1.  Fringed Gentian:  A Rare Gentianopsis by Gordon Mitchell
  The Elusive Gentians by Perry Peskin
3.  Sidewalk Garden is Native Plant Treasure at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo by Jean Loria

1.  Fringed Gentian:  A Rare Gentianopsis by Gordon Mitchell

Due to their highly attractive flowers, many Gentian species have fallen victim to flower pickers and are becoming scarce in their natural habitats.  One such species that is especially becoming increasingly scarce is the Fringed Gentian (Gentianopsis crinita [Froelich] Ma).

The Fringed Gentian is a member of the Gentian Family (Gentianaceae).  The generic name, Gentianopsis, was named for King Gentius of Illyria (along the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea), during the 2nd Century B.C. (According to the ancient Roman naturalist, Pliny the Elder, in the 1st Century A.D., King Gentius used an Old World relative as a medicinal plant.)  The suffix to the generic name, opsis, means “like”, as in “like a Gentian”.  The specific epithet, crinata, is Latin for “hairy” or “with long hairs or fringes.”

Other common names for this plant are Fringed Blue Gentian, Greater Fringed Gentian, and Oval-leaf Gentian.  Previous scientific names for this plant were Anthopogon crinitum (Froelich) Rafinesque, Gentiana crinita Froelich, Gentiana nevadensis Gilg, Gentiana ventricosa Grisebach, and Gentianella crinita (Froelich) G. Don.

The Fringed Gentian is considered to be a very attractive flower.  A survey taken in the 1940’s listed the Fringed Gentian as the 8th most beautiful wildflower.  Unfortunately, too many of these flowers have been picked in the wilds, which helped make this beautiful plant a rarity.

The Fringed Gentian has played a role in American culture.  Some of our early American authors and poets wrote about this plant.  In 1832, American poet, William Cullen Bryant, wrote his poem, To the Fringed Gentian. Emily Dickinson’s poem Fringed Gentian was published in 1891.  Because of this plant’s rarity, American poet and essayist Henry David Thoreau once said, “It (Fringed Gentian) came very near not being an inhabitant of our latitude, perhaps our globe, at all.”

. Description - Annual or biennial
.Height - 4-40 inches
Stem - Erect.  Slender.  Smooth.
Leaves - Simple. Opposite. Sessile.  Each leaf is about 1-2 inches long, about 3/8 inch wide, broadly lanceolate or ovate, and has a rounded base and a pointed tip. The leaf margins are entire.
Flowers - Violet-blue.  The flowers are located at the tips of the terminal branches.  Each flower is about 1-3 inches long, about 1 inch wide, and is radially symmetrical.  The calyx consists of 4 green lobes.  The corolla is tubular and consists of 4 flared and rounded petals.  Each petal is fringed or toothed at the tip with long hairs.   (These unique petals keep certain insect species away from the flower’s nectar.  The flared petals would collapse under the weight of larger insects species and the petal’s hairs would impede the movement other insect species.)  There are 4 stamens and 1 pistil with 2 stigmas.  The anthers of each flower mature before the pistil of that flower.  When the pistil finally matures the anthers would have wilted.  This timing system is called protandry and encourages only cross-fertilization.   These flowers open only in direct sunlight and close at night or on cloudy days.   This closure helps keep the rain out of the flower’s nectar.   One single plant is capable of producing up to 100 flowers.   Flowering season is usually August to November.
Fruits - Pod.   The spindled pod opens into 2 sections to release their brown, hairy, windborne seeds.  This plant only grows from seed. These seeds require just the right amount of soil moisture to germinate.   Because of that requirement, the Fringed Gentian is a very difficult plant to cultivate.
Habitat - Calcareous slopes, moist woodlands, wet meadows, stream banks, and wetlands.
Gordon Mitchell works for the Columbus OH Metroparks and is a member of the Central Ohio Native Plant Society.

2.  The Elusive Gentians by Perry Peskin


Reprinted from On The Fringe, September 1983, Vol. 1, No. 7.


Looking for members of the gentian family in northern Ohio? It can be frustrating.

I remember the first gentian I ever found as a result of a "hot tip" that the plants were blooming on the shale bank adjoining Chagrin River Road south of US 422. On a clear October day, after locating the shale bank and doggedly climbing up the slope, slipping down two feet for every three feet ascended, I found on the few level places, growing under the first autumn leaf-fall, a delicate-stemmed plant with narrow, opposite leaves; one or two vase-shaped flowers at the top; and lightly-fringed petals of a peculiar smokey blue. As anyone might be, I was justly proud of having discovered the celebrated wildflower—Gentiana crinita, the fringed gentian.

Actually I hadn't. The diminutive gentian growing on shale banks was, as in most cases, Gentiana procera, the small fringed gentian (or in Ohio a hybrid between the two species). To become acquainted with the real thing, I found out years later that one has to travel to mucky bottomlands, such as Stumpy Basin of Summit County, or to sterile borrow pits, waste areas depleted of topsoil by construction projects, such as the well-known location on Boston Mills Road, north of Peninsula, which is next to, and created by, the Ohio Turnpike.

Here, in all its glory, grows the true fringed gentian, with stout stems ranging up to three feet in height, broad leaves surmounted by dozens of flowers, and petals all deeply fringed at the ends and along the sides–a beautiful but hardly delicate wildflower, and an unlikely companion to the coarse, hardy mulleins, asters, and grasses that it competes with in a marginal type of habitat.

For the gentian family, competition is the name of the game. Like the North American heaths and orchids, attractive but rare plants, the gentians seem to prosper in habitats shunned by most plants as too dry, rocky, sandy, or boggy. They seldom are found in large stands or among familiar climax vegetation, such as a beech-maple forest. In poor, treeless habitats, since they do not run the risk of being shaded out, most gentians bloom from midsummer to late fall, as do their relatives in the milkweed and dogbane families.

The giant of the family in Ohio, the American columbo (Swertia caroliniensis) blooms in June on sunny slopes, such as the toboggan run in Virginia Kendall Park.  Its small, greenish-white, butterfly like flowers do not resemble those of the other gentians. Even when not in bloom, it can be recognized by its great size and the rosette of huge, strap-like leaves growing from the base.

By contrast, the midget of the family, the yellow bartonia (Bartonia virginica) pokes its wiry leafless stems only a few inches above the moss in dark swamp forests, such as Towner's Woods near Kent or Grand River Terraces in Ashtabula County. In a striking case of plant mimicry, the tiny, yellow-green flowers of bartonia look for all the world like the inedible spore capsules of the haircap moss (Polytrichum) that it lives among, and thus perhaps it escapes predation from herbivores.

A large group of attractive, pink-flowered gentians (genus Sabatia) live in wet or rocky habitats. The rose-pink (S. angularis) can be found in the Cuyahoga Valley's Deep Lock Quarry Park growing quite comfortably in the quarry itself, where water seeps out of the rocks. Most of the Sabatias have a yellow, star-shaped pattern in the center of the flower to attract pollinating insects.

In contrast, many of the blue gentians found in Ohio have flowers partly closed at the top, as if to discourage insects.  Stiff gentian (G. quinquefolia), found on dry hillsides, such as the shale bank on River Road, has many small tube-like flowers clustered near the top. The petals point inward and partially block the flower tube. The bottle gentian (Gentian Andrewsii) and the rarer closed gentian (G. clausa), both found on slopes, roadsides, or stream banks, go further. They have "elastic" strips along the petals to make sure that even if the flower is forced open, it will snap shut again. One would expect that the chief pollinators would be tiny flies that can creep into the narrow opening at the top. A little observation soon dispels the notion. The major pollinating insects are large, clumsy bumblebees that force an entry past the elastic-lined opening and disappear inside the flower, which closes on top of them. After a few seconds, in which they somehow turn around, they emerge head first, pushing their way out of the "bottle", having gathered nectar and pollinated the plant at the same time. Undaunted by the effort, they usually aim for another closed gentian and repeat the process.

Perhaps the rarest gentian in Ohio, the white-flowered aquatic bog-bean (or buckbean), now known from only two locations, resembles the fringed gentian most closely with its cup-shaped abundant flowers, and deeply fringed petals. Sometimes placed in a separate family, Menyanthes trifoliate seems to be a northern plant displaced by the last glacier and surviving only in cold bogs, a companion of pitcher plants and rose pogonia orchids. Although it blooms in July in Canada, bog-bean blooms in mid-May in Ohio, if at all, for late frosts often kill the flower buds.

Because of their habitat preferences, most of Ohio's gentians are listed as endangered, threatened, or potentially threatened by the Natural Heritage Program, which has been mapping and inventorying the 600 rarest of the native plants since 1978. Since the fringed gentian chooses a wide variety of marginal habitats, it is rated as potentially threatened; however, due to its great fame and attractiveness, it tempts too many people to pick or transplant it from the wild. They might be disappointed when they find it is a biennial or annual. A better garden subject, the bottle gentian, which is a perennial and not on the endangered list, can be bought as cuttings from wildflower dealers, transplanted easily into ordinary garden soil, and expected to bloom every year, attracting the bumblebees to perform their eccentric acrobatics before winter closes in. Frustrated plant hunters can thus enjoy one of the elusive gentians close to home.


Mr. Peskin is a retired teacher, a volunteer at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and an amateur plant hunter and photographer. He spends a great part of the summer looking for endangered plants in Ohio and reporting the findings to the Natural Heritage Program.

[Perry Peskin is still an active and valued member of the Native Plant Society of Northeastern Ohio.]


3.  Sidewalk Garden is Native Plant Treasure at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo by Jean Loria


Most people know about the wildlife inside the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. But few know about the garden just outside the gates filled with native plant species. A border garden runs along the Fulton Parkway portion of the Zoo's All Purpose Trail. An amazing 100 yards of improved Zoo Perimeter Landscape are established and flourishing.

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, formerly part of Brookside Reservation, is located on Cleveland's West Side. The Zoo, founded in 1884 on Wade Oval in University Circle, was moved to its current location in 1907. Cleveland Metroparks assumed operation of the Zoo in 1975 and dedicated it to responsible stewardship of our natural environment through exhibition of living animals and plants. The Zoo grounds cover 165 acres of rolling hills and high terraces drained by Big Creek. They're beautifully landscaped and well maintained. Vegetation harvested on site supplements feed for the animals. Both plant and animal exhibits are popular and enjoyed by large numbers of visitors to the Zoo each year.

Pebbles Bush, Zoo Horticulturist, began work on the plant border bed in 2002. The All Purpose Trail isn't an interpretive trail, but it's accessible and free to the public. To her credit, Pebbles elected to plant native woody and perennial species, making it a prime opportunity for passersby to get a feeling for our native plant heritage. Pebbles also chose to model the bed after a dynamic plant community rather than using the format of a plant collection.

The perimeter garden spans the space between the sidewalk along Fulton Parkway and a seven-foot barbed wire fence on the east side. The Zoo Perimeter Landscape Plan, drafted by Landscape Architect John Cardwell, was modified by Don Krock, Manager of Zoo Horticulture, with evergreen tree species substitutions and the addition of large boulders for hardscape. For Pebbles, the beauty, complexity and diversity of plants native to Ohio, rarely profiled in public or private gardens, offered a perfect palette for her design requirements.

The garden is in full sun and is windy. The sheer size and backdrop-like site of the border demand a bold show. Native prairie plant species account for 50% of the species planted, with the balance representing other biome ecologies. Evergreens expected to mature to heights of 15 to 20 feet and the boulder arrangements interspersed throughout the garden provide microclimate niches that Pebbles used to good advantage. The bed was prepared by adding topsoil and compost to the existing soil and installing an irrigation system. So far the garden suffers moderate but less than anticipated insult from litter and animal waste.

The Zoo Perimeter Landscape Plan begins south of the Employee parking lot off Fulton Parkway. Continuing south along the sidewalk, you'll see a stand of five Chokeberries (Aroma melanocarpa) planted again the fence. They are covered with white blooms in late spring that mature to a glossy black fruit midsummer. The berries persist through the winter, providing a feast for cedar waxwings and robins.

Sweet Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia subtomentosa) bloom all summer long next to the Chokeberry. This striking species is remarkably different from Rudbeckia cultivars popular in ornamental gardens. It tends to be taller, softer looking with finer petals, and the foliage is a cool, light green. It holds up better than Rudbeckia goldstrum in heat and drought. And although it seeds in freely, it has not run rampant in the border.

Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea), barely reaching a foot in height, has lanceolate leaves and is covered in July/August with one-inch, purple flowers. Pebbles encourages this species to weave throughout the border, filling in spots around boulders and close to the sidewalk. Its ability to fix nitrogen augments the fertility of the bed on a seasonal basis.

Blooming in May/June in concert with Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum). This diminutive groundcover has feathery pink seedheads not to be missed before they disperse in July. It works well in the drier soil edge of the sidewalk. Two Prairie Fire Crab trees add to the spring show. Clustered in front of the first are four Virginia Sweetspires (flea virginica 'Little Henry'). Another May/June bloomer is Winterthur Smooth Witherrod (Viburnum nudum 'Winterthur') with multiple stems and beautiful shiny foliage with good fall color. Also along the back of the border is Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago), a bonus for wildlife food and carefree maintenance. The entire bed benefits from the three season appeal of Fothergilla (Pothergilla gardenii). These plants provide the bulk of the spring bloomers.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida) stand with the Sweet Black-eyed Susans. The more difficult to cultivate Pale Purple Coneflower, although not spreading, is holding its own.  Pebbles plans to try both Echinacea tennessensis and Echinacea angustifolia. False Indigo (Baptisia australis) adds an impressive four-foot stand, fixing nitrogen, resisting drought, and sporting interesting seed pods long past the growing season.

Kalm's St. John's wort (Hypericum kalmianum) is another drought-tolerant native that is attractive in its own right for its pretty yellow flowers and dried-capsule seedheads that persist through the winter. It's a herbaceous plant rarely seen. In fact, it was listed as Extirpated from Ohio until it was reported by staff members of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History at Singer Lake. [See "On the Fringe" Vol. 19 No. 2, June 2002.] This species differs from the more widely cultivated Hypericum calycinum in that the flowers are smaller and the leaves narrower, and it has the distinguishing feature of exfoliating bark.

Wet spots in the deeper soil along the fence are exploited by the huge white to pale pink flower with blush red eye of Marsh Hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos). This hardy native plant can grow to four feet in height and circumference—a pleasant surprise for the unacquainted. Further down the border before the second Prairie Fire crab is another moisture lover, Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata). It seeds freely, is four to five feet tall and is considered a valuable medicinal. In front of this second crab is Foxglove Penstemon (Penstemon digitalis). It has white flowers and differs from more common cultivars in that the stems and leaves are not burgundy.

Mixed throughout is Sullivant's Milkweed (Asclepias sullivantii). Fragrant blooms in June/July/August attract insects, including monarch butterflies. Happily, this species is not a concern for spreading. Sullivant's and Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) are part of ongoing habitat trials in this multipurpose bed.

From July to September, three Silphium species, Prairie Dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum), Cupplant (Silphium perfoliatum), and Rosinweed (Silphium integrifolium) bloom on the fence-side, south end of the border. These spectacular species tower to 7 or 8 feet and tolerate average garden soil. Pebbles used five species of grasses for their bold architecture as well as their contribution to food for wildlife and ability to hold soil. Noteworthy for gardeners looking for a plant to thrive in dry shade is Bottlebrush grass (Hystrix patula). Goldenrods and Sweet Fern (Comptonia peregrina), a sub-shrub with a pleasant fragrance and texture, end the border along the All Purpose Trail.

The Zoo All Purpose Trail border garden conforms to the concept of a natural garden relying on the use of native plant species—species that the public rarely has an opportunity to observe and enjoy in an urban area. In addition, it is a good example of an ecological garden. Irrigation water requirements are minimal. Fertilizer and chemical pesticides are simply unnecessary. The site was carefully designed, assembling species that work well together to protect the soil from erosion, conserve moisture, boost soil fertility and attract wildlife. It is dramatic and tough with close-up appeal. This is a garden well worth viewing.


    Zoo Perimeter Landscape Plan


Common Name                       Botanical Name

     Perennials and Grasses

Big Bluestem                             Andropogon gerardii

Blue False Indigo                       Baptisia australis

Blue Vervain                             Verbena hastata

Blue-Stemmed Goldenrod         Solidago caesia

Bottlebrush Grass                      Hystrix patula

Columbine                                 Aquilegia canadensis

Cupplant                                    Silphium perfoliatum

Dogtooth Daisy or Sneezeweed Helenicm autumnale

Foxglove penstemon                  Penstemon digitalis

Heart-leaved Blue Wood Aster  Aster cordifolius

Indian Grass                              Sorghastrum nutans

Ironweed                                   Vernoniafasciculata

Little Bluestem                           Schizachyrium scoparium

Marsh Hibiscus                          Hibiscus moscheutos

Meadow Blazingstar                  Liatris ligulistylis

Nodding Onion                          Allium cernuum

Ohio Goldenrod                         Solidago ohioensis

Pale Purple Coneflower             Echinacea pallida

Prairie Dock                               Silphium terebinthinaceum

Prairie Smoke                            Geum triflorum

Purple Coneflower                     Echinacea purpurea

Purple Prairie Clover                  Dalea purpuea

Rosinweed                                 Silphium integrifolium

Smooth Aster                             Aster laevis 'Blue Bird'

Stiff Goldenrod                         Solidago rigida

Sullivant's Milkweed                  Asclepias sullivantii

Swamp Milkweed                      Asclepias incarnata

Sweet Black-eyed Susan            Rudbeckia subtomentosa

Switch Grass                              Panicum virgatum

     Woody Plants

Black Chokeberry                      Aronia melanocarpa

Dwarf Fothergilla                       Fothergilla gardenii

Eastern White Pine                     Pinus strobus

Kalm's St. Johnswort                 Hypericum kalmianum

Little Henry

     Dwarf Virginia Sweetspire    Itea virginica 'Little Henry'

Nannyberry                               Viburnum lentago

Northern Bayberry                     Myrica pensylvanica

Prairie Rose                               Rosa setigera

Sweet Fern                                 Comptonia peregrina

Winterthur Smooth Witherrod    Viburnum nudum 'Winterthur'


Jean Loria lives in Cleveland Heights and is a long-time member of the Ohio Native Plant Society. Pebbles Bush has been a Horticulturist at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo for 11 years. She is currently working on a degree in Environmental Science and was awarded Trailblazer by Hard Hatted Women in recognition for her role as a woman in non-traditional jobs.




This web site was created by

Web Master:  Ami Horowitz