One plant I am always excited to see is one of Canada's rarest: the White Prairie Gentian (Gentiana alba). It is a striking yellowish/white flower with fine green markings along the fluted edges. It will partially open, so as to allow pollinators access. This species, at least on Walpole, is in some of the best quality tallgrass prairie/oak savanna habitats.
|White Prairie Gentian|
A recent survey of the populations at Walpole totalled 50 plants, with about 40 of them having flowers. That is it...... the entire known Canadian population is just 50 plants, and some years there are even fewer recorded. It is legislated as an Endangered species both provincially and federally, not surprisingly. The localized spots where it occurs are reasonably well protected, although the original population, first found in 1984, is quite shaded and the single surviving plant has not been seen in flower for several years.
At one point during the survey, I only had my point-and-shoot camera, and I got a few shots including this next one. It was the freshest looking of all of the ones we encountered. Most others had at least a bit of brown showing on the petals.
What makes this species toehold in Canada even more precarious is the fact that it sometimes hybridizes with the much more common Bottle or Closed Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii). As its name indicates, it remains closed, and the only way for pollinators to pollinate it is to be a rather robust insect, such as a medium to large bee, having the capability to force its way through the side of the petal.
|Gentiana alba X andrewsii|