The rare Chiltern Gentian wildflower is found almost exclusively in the Chilterns.
Rather a discerning flower, the Chiltern Gentian grows on unimproved chalk grasslands. Unlike the great majority of its spring and summer flowering relatives, this wildflower comes into bloom from mid-August through to mid-September.
Standing around one foot tall, the Chiltern Gentian Gentianella Germanica is usually found in relatively small groups, growing amongst knee-high chalk grasses where grazing has ceased earlier in the year. It can be confused with other gentians, notably the Autumn Gentian.
The flowers themselves are a striking blueish violet and the main reddish coloured stem produces around a dozen or so flower heads. Each flower has five crown-like petals which open to reveal delicate white stamens within.
Appropriately, the Chiltern Gentian is the county flower of Bucks; South Bucks is the heart of the Chiltern Hills. The Chiltern Gentian is found throughout the whole of the Chilterns.
Sadly, the habitat of this intriguing wildflower has been under threat since the Second World War when much chalk grassland went under the plough to boost agricultural production. Nowadays organisations like the Wildlife Trusts have recognised the vital importance of this rare habitat and where possible are restoring areas of unimproved chalk grassland so that species such as the magnificent Chiltern Gentian can continue to thrive.
The time to look for Chiltern Gentians is from the middle of August. Look for unimproved chalk grassland, grazed over winter and spring, or else cut early in Spring so the grass is quite open and relatively short. One of the best kept secrets of the Chilterns, if you do find the Chiltern Gentian, keep its location just that, a secret for all to discover.