Spigelia gentianoides - Chapman ex A. DC.
Gentian Pinkroot
Other English Common Names: Purple-flower Pinkroot
Other Common Names: purpleflower pinkroot
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Spigelia gentianoides Chapman ex A. DC. (TSN 202479)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.131502
Element Code: PDLOG08020
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Pinkroot Family
Image 10393

© Alabama Natural Heritage Program

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Gentianales Loganiaceae Spigelia
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Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Spigelia gentianoides
Taxonomic Comments: Distinct species. Overlaps range with S. marilandica.
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G1
Global Status Last Reviewed: 12Jun2001
Global Status Last Changed: 12Jun2001
Rounded Global Status: G1 - Critically Imperiled
Reasons: Spigelia gentianoides is known from small populations in an extremely restricted range in Florida and Alabama. The Alabama populations are larger in area and in number of individuals. A decline in the quality and extent of habitat is threatening this species, especially in Florida where clearcutting and mechanical site preparation are immediate threats.
Nation: United States
National Status: N1

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S1), Florida (S1)

Other Statuses

U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): LE: Listed endangered (26Nov1990)
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R4 - Southeast

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: Spigelia gentianoides var. gentianoides is known from Washington, Calhoun, and Jackson counties, Florida. S. gentianoides var. alabamensis is known only from Bibb County, Alabama.

Number of Occurrences: 1 - 5
Number of Occurrences Comments: Four recorded occurrences of Spigelia gentianoides var. gentianoides.

Population Size Comments: Very few records; low population numbers of Spigelia gentianoides. Populations of Spigelia gentianoides var. alabamensis are much larger in extent and number of individuals than populations of var. gentianoides (Gould 1996).

Overall Threat Impact Comments: The variety alabamensis is mainly threatened by quarrying of the calcareous parent rock under the glades. The variety gentianoides is very threatened by clearcutting, mechanical site preparation, and planting of pine plantations. Other threats are trampling and alteration of hydrologic patterns.

If fires are needed for seed germination, stimulation of flowering or maintenance of a suitable habitat, then fire suppression could be a threat. Too-frequent fires could also be detrimental, if they killed the plants without promoting recruitment or if they produced a habitat unsuitable for survival and/or recruitment (S. gentianoides does not appear to grow in habitats that are dependent on very frequent fire).

Intrinsic Vulnerability Comments: Apparently sensitive to slight disturbance of community structure or natural conditions.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Global Range: Spigelia gentianoides var. gentianoides is known from Washington, Calhoun, and Jackson counties, Florida. S. gentianoides var. alabamensis is known only from Bibb County, Alabama.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, FL

Range Map
No map available.

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AL Bibb (01007)
FL Calhoun (12013), Holmes (12059)*, Jackson (12063), Washington (12133)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
03 Lower Chattahoochee (03130004)+, Chipola (03130012)+, Lower Choctawhatchee (03140203)+, Cahaba (03150202)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Basic Description: An herbaceous perennial, growing to 3 dm tall from a shallow, jointed, ascending rhizome. Stems are usually single, erect, slender but stiff, and maroon tinted. Leaves are opposite, the lowermost pairs smallest, 1.5-5 cm long. Flowers are 2.5-3 cm long, 5 petaled, and pale pink in color. (Based on Kral 1983.)
Technical Description: Herbaceous perennial (?) 1-3 dm tall. Stems usually single, erect, slender but stiff, maroon near the base. Leaves opposite, sessile, with minute stipules, lowermost pairs smallest; blades 1.5-5 cm long, 1-2 cm broad, mostly ovate or elliptical, occasionally lanceolate, the lower ones more oval, margins scabrid, upper surface deep green and scaberulous, lower surface paler and slightly scabrous along veins. Inflorescence a short, terminal, spike-like raceme with few-12 perfect, regular flowers. Pedicels stout, rarely longer than 1.5 mm. Sepals 5, linear-lanceolate, 4-7 mm long, erect, greenish. Corolla a narrow, pink tube 1.5-3 cm long widening at the throat, possibly narrowing slightly just before the base of the lobes. Lobes 5, 5-9 mm long, triangular, erect, acute, with scabrous edges. Stamens 5, 5 mm long, arising from the petals but not protruding from the corolla throat. Anthers linear-oblong, erect. Ovary superior, carpels 2, style 1, erect, about 1.5 mm long. Fruit a strongly bilobed capsule exceeded by the erect, persistent sepals. (Small 1933, Hurley 1968, Kral 1983, Clewell 1985; the descriptions in these sources do not always coincide, probably because this species has been collected so infrequently; e.g., Hurley [1968] describes S. gentianoides as an annual, but Small [1933] and Kral [1983] describe it as perennial).
Ecology Comments: Spigelia gentianoides flowers in May to July (herbaria of FSU and UF). One might expect the tube-shaped flowers to be pollinated by lepidopterans or hummingbirds, but the introrse anthers suggest that the plant may be a self-pollinator (see Rogers [1986]; S. marilandica has extrorse anthers and is pollinated by ruby-throated hummingbirds). The mechanism of seed dispersal is unknown, but the fruit does not appear to be adapted for longªdistance dispersal. Kral (1983) and Gholson (1987, pers. comm.) both noted that individuals tend to occur singly or in small groups. Basic information concerning population biology, including average life-span, is lacking. The effect of fire on seeds and plants is unknown.
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest - Hardwood, Forest/Woodland
Habitat Comments: Sandy or dry-mesic pine-oak woods; also observed above the mowed area of a highway shoulder at the edge of woods (herbaria of A.K. Gholson, Florida State University and University of Florida). The plants observed by Kral (1983) were in leaf litter beneath oaks or pines in moist or seasonally dry sandy loam, topped by a thin layer of dark, unincorporated humus. The overstory trees were Pinus taeda, P. palustris, Quercus nigra, Q. hemisphaerica, Q. falcata and Nyssa sylvatica. The understory and herb layer included Cornus, Vaccinium, Rhododendron, Agrimonia, Gentiana, Mitchella and Pedicularis. The area showed some history of fire.

The plants observed by Gholson (1987, pers. comm.) were in longleaf pine-oak woods with a sparse herbaceous element (including wiregrass, Aristida stricta), but were not found directly under the trees.

Spigelia gentianoides has been observed very infrequently, and appears to be endemic to northwest Florida. Specimens have been collected from Calhoun, Gadsden, Jackson, Liberty and Washington counties (Hurley 1968, Ward 1979, Florida State University and University of Florida herbaria). A specimen from Levy county cited in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service status survey of S. gentianoides [1980] is actually S. loganioides, according to the specimen label [University of South Florida herbarium]). There is an unconfirmed report that the species may occur in Georgia.

Economic Attributes
Economically Important Genus: Y
Management Summary
Stewardship Overview: 1. Conduct research on basic biology and effect of fire. 2.Locate additional populations. 3.Monitor and establish management plans for existing population(s).
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: Until more information is available on the biology of the species, particularly with respect to dispersal and recruitment, it is difficult to estimate how much land would be necessary to protect it. A buffer of suitable habitat around known populations would probably be advisable, because it would allow the population to move and/or spread, it would provide habitat for associated plants and animals, and it might contain previously undetected individuals.
Management Requirements: Management recommendations for this species will be difficult to formulate until more information is available, particularly concerning its response to fire. In the meantime, management will probably have to be geared to requirements of the community rather than to particular species requirements. It is likely that the relatively open pine-oak woods in which S. gentianoides is usually found were historically maintained by occasional fires (Platt 1987, pers. comm.) Complete suppression of fire would probably result in development of a more densely shaded hardwood forest (Christensen 1981), and might lead to the disappearance of S. gentianoides. Maintaining the proper habitat for this species may, therefore, require instituting a controlled burning program.

Because of the extreme rarity of this species and the lack of information about its response to fire, a controlled burning program should be undertaken with extreme care. Ideally, some plants should be included in a burning program while others are left unburnt; the relative performance of the two groups could then be compared. Because other factors could also be responsible for differences between the groups, it would be better to include several groups of plants from different areas in both the burnt and unburnt treatments; however, the small numbers of individuals might make this impossible. The kind of fire regime needed to maintain open, mixed pine-oak woods is probably infrequent, low-intensity fires, at intervals of approximately 10 years (Christensen 1981, Evans 1987, pers. comm.), but the season in which burning would most benefit this species is unknown. An initial winter burn when conditions are not too dry would help prevent a destructive crown fire (Christensen 1981), and would be particularly important if much litter had accumulated due to long-term exclusion of fire.

Access to known sites might need to be controlled, to prevent collection or trampling of the plants.

Monitoring Requirements: Monitoring is needed to determine the status of populations and to assess the effects of management techniques, particularly fire.

A monitoring program should begin with marking all individuals and measuring appropriate characteristics such as height, leaf and flower number, and fruit production. Marked individuals should be censused and measured again every year, and seedlings should be searched for and marked.

Management Research Needs: Research concerning this rare, little-known species is sorely needed. Information about basic population biology, habitat requirements, pollination and seed dispersal mechanisms, seed germination and recruitment requirements, and response to fire will allow formulation of appropriate management plans and may provide some understanding of why this species is so rare. Because only one population is currently known, location of other populations is important.
Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 24Oct1998
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: D.L. White, rev. L.G. Chafin
Management Information Edition Date: 28Aug1987
Management Information Edition Author: LOUISE ROBBINS & DENNIS HARDIN

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).


  • Bell, C. R., and B.J. Taylor. 1982. Florida wild flowers and roadside plants. Laurel Hill Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 291 pp.


  • Christensen, N.L. 1981. Fire regimes in southeastern ecosystems. pp. 112-136 in Mooney, H.A., T.M. Bonnicksen, N.L. Christensen, J.E. Lotan, and W.A. Reiners (technical coordinators). Fire Regimes and Ecosystem Properties, Proceedings of the Conference. December 1978, Honolulu, Hawaii. USDA Forest Service General Technical Report WO-26.

  • Clewell, A.F. 1985. Guide to vascular plants of the Florida panhandle. Florida State Univ. Press, Tallahassee, Florida. 605 pp.

  • Hall, D.W. 1993. Illustrated plants of Florida and the Coastal Plain. Maupin House, Gainesville, Florida. 431 pp.

  • Hall, David W. 1993. Illustrated plants of Florida and the coastal plain. Maupin House, Gainesville, FL. pp. 431.

  • Hurley, H.H. 1968. A taxonomic revision of the genus Spigelia (Loganiaceae). Unpubl. Ph.D. dissertation. George Washington University. 201 pp.


  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Kral, R. 1983a. A report on some rare, threatened or endangered forest related vascular plants of the south. USFS technical publication R8-TP2, Atlanta, GA. Vol. 1: 718 pp.

  • Rogers, G.K. 1986. The genera of the Loganiaceae in the southeastern United States. Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 67:143-185.

  • Small, J.K. 1933. Manual of the Southeastern Flora. Facsimile reprint of the 1933 edition by Hafner Publishing Company, New York, 1972.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1980. Endangered and threatened plant status survey, Region IV: Spigelia gentianoides. Unpublished report, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, Georgia.


  • Ward, D.B., ed. 1979. Rare and endangered biota of Florida. Vol. 5: Plants. Univ. Presses of Florida, Gainesville.

  • Wunderlin, R.P. 1982. Guide to the vascular plants of central Florida. University Presses of Florida, Tampa.

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