A Gaura By Any Other Name Would Be as Pink

It wasn’t even on my list of plants I wanted to do, but I suddenly found myself thinking of how I would chart a Gaura. Maybe I thought the collection of plants needed some pink that wasn’t tinged with purple. It also needed some height, as the henbit was the tallest plant so far, and that’s not really a big one. I’ve just been drawing tinies. Time for some vertical elements!

The Gaura I had in mind was Plains Beeblossom, the plant I learned as Gaura brachycarpa. It is slender and wand-like, but it’s not as gangly-tall as our other species, so it will probably play well in a design with the other things I’ve charted.

Unfortunately, in recent decades, those pesky taxonomists have shoved Gaura into Oenothera and this plant is now Oenothera patriciae. (Ptui.) I liked Gaura. If my undergrad botany students could tell the species that were Gaura from the other Oenothera (and they could!), why meddle? Blah, blah, DNA, blah, cladogram blah. In my head and heart it will always be Gaura.

This plant is in the Onagraceae or Evening Primrose Family. This means that the floral parts all sit on top of the ovary–in fact, there’s a long floral tube or hypanthium separating the sepals, petals, and stamens from the actual ovary, which is very, very inferior. Most members of the family are 4-merous. That is, their floral parts are in fours or multiples thereof. G. brachycarpa is a bit different, though, as the flowers are more often than not 3-merous, which used to trick the students into thinking it was a monocot.

The flowers of Gaura are really interesting. All of the petals are pulled to one side–in this case, the top. The stamens and style all hang down. The flowers start out white but fade to pink after pollination. Even the sepals turn pink or red. (Bees can’t see red, so presumably this keeps bees from wasting their time with flowers that have already been visited). At some point, the stamens fall off, followed by the petals and sepals. The fruits are three-lobed capsules (or four-lobed, if there were four petals and eight stamens).

There is an utter lack of whole-plant photographs, so here is an herbarium sheet to provide a notion of how the plant is constructed:

It didn’t take too long to come up with a sketch. I could tell that the stems and leaves would be easy to chart and the flowers would be fiddly, what with six stamens and a long style apiece. (I’d forgotten there were six; I was thinking three.)

Copious notes about the various colors of things!

Here’s the finished hand-chart.

The pencil shading is me trying to keep my place as I translated this into a chart within the software. Here it is as a color-block image, without the grid lines showing. (It will be taller than this! This is much reduced)

A close-up of the flowers as they would appear stitched larger than life

The uppermost flower is white and has not been pollinated, the others have been pollinated for varying periods of time. In the lowermost flower, the stamens have already fallen off. I didn’t take a lot of trouble charting the stamens. The stitcher will have to place them where they look best. If stitched very small, it is going to be tricky to get all six in there. They might have to be done with a slender strand of 100 wt silk thread rather than a strand of floss.

I pronounce myself satisfied. It’s recognizably Gaura. It’s definitely Gerda-ish, and It is just right, size-wise, when compared to my other charts.

Next time, I will show you how everything I’ve charted so far looks all together!

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