Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Stenosiphon linifolius

with 32 comments

False Gaura Flowers and Buds 3339

From August 31st along Oasis Bluff Dr. out in the Texas Hill Country northwest of Austin comes a native species you’re seeing here for the first time, Stenosiphon linifolius, known as false gaura, but I assure you the blossoms and buds in the photograph are the real thing. They form implausibly long and slender floral spikes that can rise taller than a person.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 22, 2015 at 4:06 AM

32 Responses

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  1. Exquisite.


    September 22, 2015 at 4:18 AM

    • The stretch of road along which I took the picture is the one place I know to look for this species, which I’ve found there two years in a row.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 22, 2015 at 4:32 AM

      • I thought it might grow en masse, like bluebonnets, but it seems to be a solitary plant. Is that correct?


        September 22, 2015 at 5:27 AM

        • Along perhaps 100m I found several stands of these plants, but never more than a handful in any one place. The word that comes to mind to describe an individual plant as well as groups of them is diffuse, the opposite of the growth habit of bluebonnets once they get going.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 22, 2015 at 8:06 AM

          • This past weekend, on US 71 between I-10 and El Campo, I saw thick, expansive colonies of some sort of pink morning glory-like flower, blue dayflowers, frog fruit, and sunflowers. In some places, they were mixed together. It was an impressive sight: as much so as any field of bluebonnets or Indian paintbrush I’ve seen.


            September 22, 2015 at 9:29 PM

            • It makes me wish I lived close enough to that area to zip over there on one of my local morning jaunts.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 23, 2015 at 7:15 AM

  2. This is beautiful.


    September 22, 2015 at 6:40 AM

  3. This is very unique – will all the buds eventually open?


    September 22, 2015 at 7:13 AM

    • I’m sorry to say that I rarely see this species so I don’t know. I’ve looked at other pictures I took of these plants at the same time and in some the flowers are a lot closer to the tip of the spike. I’m not sure if that implies that all the buds eventually open.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 22, 2015 at 8:01 AM

  4. Impressive

    Jim in IA

    September 22, 2015 at 7:19 AM

    • Your one word has reminded me of the motto of New York State: “Excelsior,” which is Latin for ‘higher, more elevated.’ In contrast, I see that the motto of Iowa is a whole sentence: “Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 22, 2015 at 8:13 AM

  5. Amen to that~I think all of the states need reminding of that. As to the plant, wow! This is one I’d love to see in person.


    September 22, 2015 at 8:20 AM

    • After I found out what Iowa’s motto is, I immediately wondered to what extent those are hollow words and to what extent they’re upheld.

      I’d like to see this plant more often. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it right in town, but perhaps I’m forgetting. When I headed out toward the lake that day, I purposely went along Oasis Bluff Dr., which is where I saw a bunch of these a year earlier, and sure enough, some were still there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 22, 2015 at 1:16 PM

      • I did too. It feels like our freedoms are slipping away from us although perhaps that is a function of how many people there are now, and a certain loss of freedom is necessary. 😦
        I’m glad you saw some still growing where you’d seen them before.


        September 23, 2015 at 8:07 AM

        • Me too. I’ve gotten to know various places as “old friends” that I can go back to year after year to see a certain species.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 23, 2015 at 8:21 AM

  6. This reminds me very much of common mullein (Verbascum thapsus), which has yellow flowers and grows wild in Minnesota in clear-ish spots near forest edges. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re related.


    September 22, 2015 at 9:02 AM

    • There’s some resemblance in the bud spike, Gary, but Verbascum thapsus is a stouter and denser plant, and it’s in the Scrophulariaceae, whereas Stenosiphon linifolius is a diffuse shrub in the Onagraceae. We have mullein here too, as an alien, of course, because it’s from Eurasia.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 22, 2015 at 2:50 PM

  7. ¡Perfecta! y muy bella imagen.

    Isabel F. Bernaldo de Quirós

    September 22, 2015 at 1:34 PM

  8. This one’s name reminded me of the downy guara I saw in Kansas. I looked at your linked page up above, and was surprised to see that the guaras now are part of the evening primrose family: Onagraceae .
    I never would have expected that — but that’s a difference between visual identification and molecular analysis.

    I’ve known the word “herbarium” for about four days now, and I’m amazed at what those early botanists were able to accomplish with field notes, a flower press, paper and glue, and a whole lot of letter writing. I wonder what they’d think of digital herbaria, our beautiful photography, and all of the note-comparing that goes on today.


    September 22, 2015 at 9:49 PM

    • Actually the genus Gaura has always been part of the Onagraceae, as far as I know. What’s quite new is botanists’ moving, based on molecular analysis, of Gaura and Stenosiphon and Calylophus into the genus Oenothera. (You mentioned a linked page, but I’m not clear on which one you meant.)

      As for Lindheimer, Engelmann, and other stalwarts of 19th-century botany here, I have to think they’d be thrilled with our modern conveniences, including indoor plumbing and electric light as much as our easy image-making and our almost instant communication.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 23, 2015 at 7:28 AM

      • Oh — I meant your entry about the downy gaura. I see now where I became confused, between Onagraceae and Oenothera. Sepals, tepals and petals are nothing compared to all of this genus, species and family business.


        September 23, 2015 at 7:39 AM

  9. Very nice Steve, loved it!

    Maria F.

    September 22, 2015 at 11:06 PM

  10. SUPER! Gruß Alois


    September 23, 2015 at 9:42 AM

  11. Wow…that is one cool flower and you captured it gloriously, Steve.

    Steve Gingold

    September 23, 2015 at 5:11 PM

    • I was grateful for the large amount of brown in the distant-enough-to-be-lacking-in-details background.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 23, 2015 at 6:06 PM

  12. Love the complexity of this plant, there is a special place for white blooms in this world…Love the photo.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    September 24, 2015 at 1:12 AM

    • Physics teaches us that white is a mixture of all colors, so that’s one thing that makes it special.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2015 at 6:01 AM

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