Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Biennial Beeblossom - Oenothera gaura   W.L. Wagner & Hoch
Members of Oenothera with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Family Onagraceae
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AuthorW.L. Wagner & Hoch
DistributionEssentially throughout the mountains, and ranges sparingly into the northern Piedmont east to Person and Wake counties. Note that most biologists know this as a Gaura species, but recently the two species (the other being O. simulans) in the state have been moved into the Oenothera genus.

This is a somewhat Northern species, ranging from New England and MN south to VA and IL, and southward mainly in the mountains to central AL.
AbundanceInfrequent to fairly common in the mountains, except scarce in the far southwestern counties. Very rare in the Piedmont portion of the range.
HabitatThis is a species of woodland borders, meadows, open woods, barrens and glades, and even along streambanks.
PhenologyBlooms from June to October, and fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis is a robust and very tall herb, often reaching 6' high, with a few branches in the upper portions. The somewhat pubescent stem has numerous alternate leaves, distinctly ascending, lanceolate to oblong, about 4-5" long and about 3/4" wide, generally with a few small teeth. The inflorescence is fairly large, consisting of a handful of spikes along the upper parts of the branches. The flowers begin as white but soon turn to pink or red, with the 4 petals being elliptical and about 1/4" long, all arranged on the top half of the flower; the sepals are as long as the petals but are strongly reflexed. Stamens and pistil are whitish and extend well forward. You should look at photos of flowers of a "gaura" to fully comprehend how odd they are! If the inflorescence is present, you won't mistake this species, as the only other "gaura" in the state -- O. simulans -- occurs in the lower Coastal Plain.
Taxonomic CommentsThis species was known as Gaura biennis until recently. Thus, not only has the genus been changed, but because there already is an O. biennis, the scientific epithet also had to be changed.

Other Common Name(s)Biennial Gaura
State RankS3
Global RankG5
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Lori ArentWake County; Lake Crabtree County Park; 15 August 2020 WakePhoto_natural
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