Fritillaria gentneri is a perennial herb arising from a fleshy bulb, with one to twelve deep red to maroon bell-shaped flowers produced on a single, erect, 40 to 70 centimeter tall flowering stalk. The leaves of reproductive plants occur in whorls along the stalk, while vegetative plants produce a single basal leaf varying in length from 0.5 to 29 centimeters. Most reproduction occurs through asexual production of small 'rice grain' bulblets on the surface of mature bulbs â these detach from the mother bulb and develop into new individuals. In general, the majority of the plants in a population are vegetative (rather than flowering), with numerous basal leaves (each representing one individual bulblet) massed near each flowering stalk.
Individuals of this species can be distinguished from similar congeners by comparing the nectary gland length/tepal length ratio and the extent of style branching. The nectaries of F. gentneri generally extend Â¼ to Â½ the length of the tepals, while those of F. recurva extend Â¼ or less, and the long glands of F. affinis extend Â½ or more of the tepal length. The style of F. affinis is divided for Â½ of its length or more, with widely spreading branches, while only the tip (Â¼ or less) of F. recurvaâs style is divided, with erect branches. The style of F. gentneri is intermediate between the two, with somewhat spreading branches extending slightly less than Â½ the length of the style. These two characters, when evaluated in combination with flower color (scarlet in F. recurva, maroon in F. gentneri, and purplish-brown in F. affinis ), adequately differentiate these three species.
This unusual fritillary was first noticed in a flower arrangement by Jacksonville, Oregon, resident Katherine Gentner in the early 1940âs. Katherineâs father, an entomologist at the Southern Oregon Experiment Station, recognized the uniqueness of this beautiful wildflower, and sent a specimen to his friend and associate, Oregon State University botanist Helen Gilkey. Dr. Gilkey subsequently published the description of this new species in the scientific journal MadroÃ±o, naming the plant after the Gentner family. Jacksonvilleâs continuing fondness for Gentnerâs fritillary is exemplified by the cityâs annual Fritillary Festival, held in late March and early April. (Credit: Melissa Carr/USFWS)
April 4, 2014