Reach me a gentian, give me a torch!
Let me guide myself with the blue, forked torch of a flower
down the darker and darker stairs, where blue is darkened on blueness
even where Persephone goes, just now, from the frosted September
to the sightless realm where darkness is awake upon the dark.
— D. H. Lawrence, from “Bavarian Gentians”
From late August through September, deep blue bottle gentians are the show-stopper at the Knights Hill Nature Park in New London, New Hampshire. The bushwhacked path around the back of the pond is a carpet of gentian, which you can’t help treading underfoot as you walk. The word ‘sumptuous’ was invented for these flowers. Merriam-Webster’s definition of ‘gentian blue’ is “moderate purplish blue that is redder, lighter, and stronger than marine blue, bluer and duller than average cornflower, and bluer and lighter than old glory blue,” which perplexes me: it’s redder, and it’s bluer? it’s lighter and it’s stronger? it’s duller than … anything on earth? Well, see what you think, though of course computer screens vary in the way they show colour, so there’s no substitute for seeing the plant in real life.
It’s odd that gentian violet (aka crystal violet or methyl violet 10B), the medicine some of us endured as children — it has antibacterial, antifungal, and anthelmintic (de-worming) properties, and because it treats thrush, it was rubbed on our gums from time to time — has neither gentian nor violets in it. But it sure stained everything blue-purple.
“The golden-rod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.
The gentian’s bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.
The sedges flaunt their harvest,
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook …”
— from “September,” by Helen Hunt Jackson
Gentians, goldenrod, apples, asters, sedges … Just some of what September brings to the nature park.
Monarch on the goldenrod:
Chokecherry and maples turning red:
Lots of fungi!
And some pond action:
A few more views …