Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Downy gaura

with 17 comments

Yesterday’s picture of a giant ragweed stalk near a sunflower comes from the afternoon of June 22. That morning I’d made a visit to the same site and had struggled to take pictures in the faint light; today’s photograph is one of those pictures. Now making its first appearance in this blog is a species that, though widely distributed in the United States, isn’t well known; truth to tell, even its genus isn’t well known to most people. The plant in question is Gaura mollis, also categorized as Gaura parviflora. Latin mollis means ‘soft’ and parviflora means ‘small-flowered,’ both of which are apt descriptions for this downy, velvety plant. Its common names include downy gaura and velvet-leaf gaura—and I wish you could reach out a hand through the Internet and feel this delightful-to-touch plant. (As for the disparaging name velvetweed, I’ll disparage it.) Because of the way the spike of green buds at the top typically leans over, people have also called this plant lizard-tail.

For more information about Gaura mollis, including a clickable map showing the great many places in North America where the plant grows, you can visit the USDA website.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 18, 2011 at 5:57 AM

17 Responses

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  1. I have a named hybrid of Gaura which is similarly colored in my ‘trap garden.’ (The garden I planted to attract all the insects, both good and bad, in the middle of my veggies.) The literature would suggest that they are kissing cousins, though, I could not be sure…
    Here is the garden flower info from Washington State U: http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/homehort/plant/gaura.htm

    Related or no, I find them charming and they really did the trick as a *trap for aphids this year, and of course, the ladybugs came and rejoiced! Just curious, do you notice the wild ones also attract the aphids? ~ Lynda

    (* I use no chemicals in my gardens)


    September 18, 2011 at 6:46 AM

    • What a wonderful use of that plant. Well done!


      September 18, 2011 at 8:27 AM

      • Thanks, Dawn. This is one of my favorite plants to photograph—but then I have many favorites.

        Steve Schwartzman

        September 18, 2011 at 8:37 AM

    • Kissing cousins it is. The plant you mentioned is a cultivar of Gaura lindheimeri, a species that also grows in central Texas (and whose scientific name pays tribute to Ferdinand Lindheimer, a botanical collector who lived in New Braunfels, about 45 miles southwest of Austin). Most of the Gaura species here are small and stay relatively close to the ground, but downy gaura sometimes rises as tall as a person. I don’t recall seeing aphids on any Gaura species here, but tomorrow I’ll show the type of insect that I do often see on downy gaura.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 18, 2011 at 8:33 AM

  2. Here in Ohio we have a version of this called Biennial Gaura: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=GABI2 It’s not the easiest plant to photograph, but it’s definitely interesting!

    Watching Seasons

    September 18, 2011 at 4:48 PM

    • Your Gaura biennis looks more like the little gauras that we have here, like Gaura coccinea. You’re right that they can be hard to photograph, but I’ve spent plenty of time trying.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 18, 2011 at 8:15 PM

  3. That is really cool! What a great plant and what a great photo!


    September 18, 2011 at 10:31 PM

    • Thanks and thanks again. I always enjoy photographing (and touching) this species. Let’s hope you run across it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 19, 2011 at 12:19 AM

  4. […] yesterday’s post about downy gaura, Gaura mollis, Pixilated2 commented that she uses a cultivar of Gaura lindheimeri as a […]

  5. wonderful. it is so precious-looking. The Gaura I mentioned to you that grows up here in British Columbia is called “Gaura lindheimeri’. It blooms like mad. Our soil here is extremely rocky, and we even have our own native species of cacti–plus though it gets very cold at times in the Winter, it is also a very arid and dry climate. Maybe that’s why ‘Gaura’ does well. . . but there you are. And thank you for always searching out these great plants.


    February 2, 2012 at 4:51 PM

    • Yes, and so soft to the touch. Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer was a German who settled in Texas and lived a bit south of Austin. He collected native plant specimens for the botanists back east, and as a result various species have ended up with his name attached to them. Gaura lindheimeri is native to central Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 2, 2012 at 4:57 PM

  6. You, sir, are an endless source of wonder! Thank you for this thread helping me understand better the Gaura in my own front yard, thousands of kilometres North of Texas. As a German on both sides all the way back, I am also glad to know of Herr Lindheimer and his contributions to my gardening joy. BTW, the popular name for this strain of hardy Gaura is “Pink Cloud”. Thank you again for this fascinating link.


    February 2, 2012 at 9:04 PM

  7. […] and velvet-leaf gaura, looks like when it’s flowering, you may want to take a look back at a post from last year. On September 24 of this year, when I was on the south bank of the Colorado River at Loop 360, I […]

  8. […] photograph of what used to be on the site, this time from June 22, 2011. The stalk was part of a downy gaura plant, Gaura mollis; the patterned and textured insect was a grass stink bug, Mecidea […]

  9. […] How about downy gaura Steve’s? […]

  10. […] photograph it. One reason, not apparent here, is the plant’s downiness, which was clear in a portrait from 2011. Today’s takes are from May 5th at the edge of the parking lot from which I walked a short […]

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