Members of Gentianaceae have opposite leaves attched directly to the stem (sessile). Calyx and corolla both have 5 (occasionally 4) lobes and the same number of stamens attched to the corolla tube. When budding, the flowers have a slight twist to them.
Many exotic Asian and European species have long been in cultivation, particularly alpine species for rock gardens. Locally, the Bay Area has several attractive pink-flowered natives, all annuals that can be easily grown from seed. A European variety, C. erythraea, can be become quite weedy and problematic if allowed to escape, and should be avoided. On Montara Mountain, Gentianaceae is represented by Centaurium muhlenburgii - (June Centaury).
Flowers: 5 petals, from purple buds to pinkish flower with yellow center, towards top of plant. Flowers have a long ovary and a minute pedicel.
Blooms: June - August. Hence the name, I guess.
Leaves: Slim, paired leaves, almost joined at base around stem, with flower stalks originating from base.
Location: Grassy areas and along trails.
Status: Native - Common.
Note the 5 petaled flower with stalks originating at base of the "sessile" leaves.
Further description & Comment: 1 - 2 ft tall, growing in clusters in grassy areas.
To the left, June Centaury growing in a grassy field in McNee Ranch State Park. In past years, these plants had a range limited to a few areas of McNee Ranch State Park, but the bloom of 1998 for Centarium was the most extensive I've seen - it was even popping up in parking lots and people's yards.
We'll see how 1999 shapes up.
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