Great Yellow Gentian, Gentiana lutea, La gentiane jaune

Great Yellow Gentian (Gentiana lutea)

French name: La gentiane jaune

Whilst out walking last week I came across these rather striking yellow wildflowers.

Great Yellow Gentian, Gentiana lutea, La gentiane jaune

Standing at over a metre in height, its tall stems were surrounded by clusters of 5-7 narrow petalled, yellow flowers, under which sat a pair of opposite leaves, increasing in size as they descended the stem.

Yellow Gentian can be found in more mountainous regions of France including the Alps, Le Massif Central, Le Jura, Les Pyrénées and Les Vosges where it can typically be found growing at altitudes of between 800 – 2500 metres.

Living for up to 50 years, Yellow Gentian does not flower until it is 7-9 years old, making me wonder just how long these beauties have been growing for in the Millevaches Natural Regional Park , certainly for longer than I have lived here!

Great Yellow Gentian, Gentiana lutea, La gentiane jaune

Common names for Yellow Gentian include bitter root and bitterwort, names attributed to this wildflower due to the bitter nature of its roots, leaves and stems. It is widely used across Europe to make bitter herbal tonics as well as having other pharmaceutical and cosmetic applications.

Before the introduction of hops, Gentian was occasionally used to brew beer and it is still used today to make bitter liqueurs, the most famous being the French digestif; Salers.

Yellow Gentian flowers from June to August depending on the altitude. If you live in a more mountainous region of France, keep an eye out for this majestic flower now. If you see one, I’d love to know so please leave your comments in the box below.

A bientôt

Katherine x



'Great Yellow Gentian (Gentiana lutea)' have 6 comments

  1. July 15, 2016 @ 12:57 pm Mick

    I think they also make Suze from the Gentian lutea; I did try it once – never again!

    I’ve just come back from a week’s walking in the Austrian mountains (near the Tirol) and these were just coming into flower. For anyone who loves flowers and walking, this is a) a magnificent area and b) a superb time to go. The highlights for me, however, were the Gentiana verna, the Gentiana acaulis and the Pulsatilla alpina. The alpine flower meadows are simply beautiful and a joy to behold.


    • July 15, 2016 @ 2:45 pm Katherine

      Yes you are right, Suze is also made from it, I have to admit that I have tried neither since living here! Your recent walking holiday in Austria sounds like heaven


  2. July 15, 2016 @ 1:48 pm Roger Brook

    We visit my wife’s son in Tignes and have walked the ski slopes in Spring and Summer. (Far more to our taste than skiing). We have admired Gentiana lutea in flower and were delighted in late Summer to collect some seed. At last a chance to get viable seed of this plant that I used to grow many years ago. (Unike many gentians it does not need acid soil and it thrived in my slightly calcareous garden in Bolton Percy for many years)
    Much to my disappointment it failed to germinate.
    He is now in Toulouse!


    • July 15, 2016 @ 2:43 pm Katherine

      Oh no! I’ll see if I can catch them at the right time and get you some new seeds! Also agree about the ski comment!


  3. August 2, 2017 @ 5:55 pm Rosaleen

    As we travel to our daughter in Cessy driving over the Jura I have kept seeing the dead leaves if this plant, this year we again just missed the flowers but I think they can only be yellow gentian, the area was full of them. One year we will make it in time to see the colour.


    • August 3, 2017 @ 8:50 am Katherine

      Based on where you were traveling it quite possibly was Gentian. The flowers don’t seem to last very long, I missed the ones near us this year. Hope you get to see them in flower one year, they are rather beautiful and always full of bees.


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Le Jardin Perdu 2018. All images and posts are the property of Katherine Forshaw

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