Shortleaf rosegentian, Sabatia brevifolia, is the botanical version of the proverbial girl or guy next door. Attractive enough to catch your attention, but it’s not going “wow” you with its looks.
While the flowers certainly are showy, the rest of the plant is best described as being on the sparse side.
Shortleaf rosegentian is a Florida native found throughout the southeastern United States, including Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. It’s found throughout most of the Panhandle and the Peninsula as far south as Palm Beach and Collier counties.
Overall, the shortleaf rosegentian population is considered secure from extinction, but NatureServe lists it as “vulnerable” in Alabama, where it’s known as short-leaf pink; the Institute for Regional Conservation considers it imperiled within the bounds of South Florida, but it's more common elsewhere in the state.
Shortleaf rosegentian is an annual or short-lived perennial. The flowers have five white petals, each of which come to a point. There are five bright yellow stamen surrounding a greenish-yellow pistil, the female part of the flower. It blooms mainly spring into the fall, but it can bloom in winter as well if the weather is warm enough.
The leaves are less than an inch long, narrow, sessile, meaning they lack a leave stem and are smooth to the touch, or glabrous in scientific terms. They are arranged opposite each other along the stem. The plant itself can reach a foot or two tall.
Shortleaf rosegentian likes it on the wet side: favorite habitats include wet pine flatwoods, wet prairies and swales. It will attract pollinators, including bees and butterflies. Us humans have used it as a quinine substitute, according to the late Florida Atlantic University Professor Daniel Austin.
Other common names and spellings: narrowleaf sabatia, white marsh-pink, white sabatia, shortleaf rose gentian and shortleaf rose-gentian. It is a member of Gentianaceae, the gentian family.