LESSER CENTAURY

Centaurium pulchellum

Gentian Family [Gentianaceae]

month8jun month8june month8jul month8july month8aug month8sep month8sept

status
statusZnative
 
flower
flower8pink
 
flower
flower8lilac
 
flower
flower8white
 
inner
inner8cream
 
inner
inner8yellow
 
morph
morph8actino
 
petals
petalsZ5
(4)-5
stem
stem8square
 

21st July 2018, Green Beach, Ainsdale, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Main stems have between 2 to 4 internodes only (as opposed to between 5 and 9 internodes for the similar but [RRR] very rare Slender Centaury). The flowers are few and well-sparated from each other on longish stems. There are several separate plants here, all less than 8cm high. They can grow to 20cm, but are usually much smaller, some even very short at 3cm or so.


21st July 2018, Green Beach, Ainsdale, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
All branches diverge from each other at between 30° and 45° (a smaller 20° - 30° for the similar Slender Centaury, which also has a denser inflorescence as a result, but the greater number of branches also contributes to the higher flower density).


19th Aug 2017, Crosby Dunes, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Some specimens are multiple plants crowded together like this (which has also possibly suffered trampling perhaps by botanists). The flowers are a darker shade of pink than other Centaurium species and when unopened as here look like phosphorus-based match heads.


31st July 2011, Nob End SSSI, Moses Gate, Greater Manchester. Photo: © RWD
The flowers are on stalks between 1mm and 4mm from the paired bracts to the base of the calyx (or so the specification for Slender Centaury says)


31st July 2011, Nob End SSSI, Moses Gate, Greater Manchester. Photo: © RWD
Corolla lobes just 2-4mm long (the same as for Slender Centaury but that usually has white flowers - of those found in the UK)


31st July 2011, Nob End SSSI, Moses Gate, Greater Manchester. Photo: © RWD
The length between the bottom of the petals to the top of the stalk, in comparison to width, is usually strikingly long for Lesser Centaury.


31st July 2011, Nob End SSSI, Moses Gate, Greater Manchester. Photo: © RWD
Some stems are square.


31st July 2011, Nob End SSSI, Moses Gate, Greater Manchester. Photo: © RWD


31st July 2011, Nob End SSSI, Moses Gate, Greater Manchester. Photo: © RWD


31st July 2011, Nob End SSSI, Moses Gate, Greater Manchester. Photo: © RWD


31st July 2011, Nob End SSSI, Moses Gate, Greater Manchester. Photo: © RWD
The 5 anthers are a golden yellow and twist after the flower opens.


31st July 2011, Nob End SSSI, Moses Gate, Greater Manchester. Photo: © RWD
A single style splits into two stigmas which are lime-green in this photo.


23rd July 2016, discovery Centre, Ainsdale, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Look what someone discovered at the Discovery Centre, hiding beneath the short turf - a tiny specimen probably less than 2cm tall. These are the smallest Lesser Centaurys - they are un-branched with usually just a single flower atop, but can have one or two more.


23rd July 2016, discovery Centre, Ainsdale, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Short but perfectly formed. The petals on the shortest plants are just ~2mm long.


23rd July 2016, discovery Centre, Ainsdale, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The anthers have not yet 'done the twist, like they did last Summer' :-)


23rd July 2016, discovery Centre, Ainsdale, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The leaves. There may even be the paling remains of the basal rosette at the foot.


Not to be semantically confused with: Annual Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) nor with Perennial Cornflower (Centaurea montana) or Common Knapweed (Centaurea nigra) or Greater Knapweed (Centaurea scabiosa) or Lesser Knapweed (Centaurea nemoralis) (now known as Chalk Knapweed (Centaurea debeauxii)) [plants whose scientific names are similar, but which are in a totally different Family altogether, the Daisy & Dandelion Family (Asteraceae)].

Hybridizes with :

  • Seaside Centaury (Centaurium littorale) to produce Centaurium × aschersonianum which was found in South Lancashire in 2008, the characteristics in pedicel lengths (zero to 1mm for Seaside Centaury; 1 to 4mm for Lesser Centaury - so anywhere between zero and 4mm) and corolla-lobe lengths (5 - 6.5mm for Seaside Centaury; 2-4mm for Lesser Centaury - so, ipso-facto, anywhere between 2mm and 6.5mm) - being intermediate between the two species.
  • Common Centaury (Centaurium erythraea) which appears with both parents on the coasts of North Somerset, South Essex and West Lancs and is intermediate in all characteristics, especially pedicel length (between 0-4mm) and corolla length (2-6mm).

Some similarities to : Slender Centaury (Centaurium tenuiflorum) but that usually has many more with 5-9 internodes (rather than the 2-4 of Lesser Centaury), and with the upper branches diverging by a smaller angle (20 to 30° rather than the 30 to 45° for Lesser Centaury). It also has much denser inflorescences with the flowers bunched together. But like Lesser Centaury, Slender Centaury has smaller flowers, the same 2mm - 4mm variation as Lesser Centaury.


  Centaurium pulchellum  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Gentianaceae  

Distribution
 family8Gentian family8Gentianaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Centaurium
Centaurium
(Centauries)

LESSER CENTAURY

Centaurium pulchellum

Gentian Family [Gentianaceae]