Oenothera suffrutescens (Scarlet Gaura)

Plant Info
Also known as: Scarlet Beeblossom
Family:Onagraceae (Evening Primrose)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:sun; dry prairie, hillsides, roadsides
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:8 to 20 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals Cluster type: raceme Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] Densely flowered spikes, 2 to 6 inches long, elongating with age, often nodding at the tip. Flowers are about ½ inch across, initially white to pale pink, turning peach pink or shades of deep salmon red, darkening as they wither, with 4 widely-spaced spoon to paddle-shaped petals, arranged fan-like toward the upper side of the flower or may be more evenly distributed around the center. In the center are 8 slender white stamens, slightly longer than the petals, tipped with slender red anthers, arranged fan-like or spreading in all directions. The single style is also slender, longer than the stamens and has a pale, 4-parted tip.

[photo of calyx and ovary] The calyx at the base of the flower is tubular, finely hairy, the 4 sepal lobes ¼ to 1/3 inch long, narrowly oblong, about as long as the petals and longer than the calyx tube, strongly bent downward with the edges tightly rolled inward, often reddish. Somewhat resembling a stalk at the base of the calyx is the ovary, shorter than the calyx tube, slightly swollen in the middle, covered in short, white hairs.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are simple and alternate, crowded along the central stem and smaller side branches, 1/3 to 1½ inches long, linear-oblong or lance-shaped, tapered to a narrow base, blunt or pointed at the tip, and stalkless. Edges are smooth or with a few teeth or shallow lobes, surfaces are grayish from short hairs or nearly smooth. Stems are single or multiple from base, erect to ascending, much branched above, angled or round in cross-section, densely covered in short, white hairs.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is ice-cream cone shaped, rounded on lower half, 4-sided with a pointed tip above, ¼ to 1/3 inch long, covered in short, white hairs.


Scarlet Gaura, formerly Gaura coccinea, is a common western plains species whose range extends just into Minnesota's western counties. While not considered rare, like many prairie species, most of its natural habitat is now agricultural land and, in Minnesota at least, it is only found in untilled prairie remnants. In the Dakotas however, it can be found re-colonizing rural road margins surrounded by farm fields. It can easily be overlooked because, like many open prairie species, it flowers early in the morning, with the petals of that day quickly wilting away with the onset of the heat of the day. Interestingly, within this fleeting moment, petals that emerge white to pink tinged, rapidly darken to rich salmon pink or red before the petals completely shrivel.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at Glacial Ridge State Park, Pope county, MN and McLean county, ND.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Larissa M - Mound Spring Prairie SNA, Yellow Medicine Co
on: 2017-06-21 22:25:05

Enjoyed seeing this species in bloom June 21.

Posted by: Nadine Thiel - Grant County
on: 2019-07-29 11:19:51

Saw this blooming roadside in northwestern Grant County in July.

Posted by: Sara - Yellow Medicine county
on: 2021-05-24 21:25:28

Found blooming on dry sandy slopes in remnant pasture.

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