South Dakota Native Plant Research
Onagraceae : Oenothera suffrutescens

Onagraceae : Oenothera suffrutescens


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Family Name


Common Name

Scarlet gaura, Scarlet beeblossom

Native American Name

Lakota: ''on s’unk oyu’spapi''


Oenothera suffrutescens is a perennial herb, usually with several branched stems growing 20-100 cm tall, from a branching caudex and spreading underground stems the generate new plants and form large colonies. The simple, alternate leaves are almost sessile, linear to narrowly elliptic, 5-60 mm long and 1-7 mm wide with a pointed tip, the margins entire to having a few small teeth. The inflorescence is a spike-like raceme, 5-60 cm long on a peduncle that is 1-6 cm long. The zygomorphic flowers appear sessile, each subtended by a bract. The floral tube is 4-12 mm long, with 4 sepals 5-10 mm long and 4 clawed (narrowed) petals 3-9 mm long and 2-4 mm wide, that are initially white, then changing to red-orange or reddish brown. There are 8 stamens, the anthers red or yellow and a central pistil with a style 10-20 mm long topped with a 4-lobed stigma. The fruit is a capsule 4-9 mm long constricted at the base. This species is highly variable in habit, flower color, size and pubescence, with plants ranging from smooth to densely hairy. Scarlet guara blooms from May into August in dry prairies, open wooded hillsides and stream valleys throughout South Dakota.

Synonym: Guara coccinea

Additional Notes

Scarlet beeblossom attracts attention in a native plant garden. Under favorable conditions these plants become tall and produce many flowers. A ring of flowers open each morning, starting out white and changing to red before the petals drop off in the late afternoon. They are pollinated by bumblebees in the morning. The plants can spread rapidly and may become quite aggressive.

Horticulture Notes

Seed collection: Collect seeds during the summer as pods begin to dry.

Germination: Seeds can be fall sown or given a 60-day cold moist treatment to break dormancy before spring planting.

Vegetative propagation: Plants can be divided in the spring separating the shoots coming from the underground stems.

Soil: Sandy and well drained loamy soils.

Light: Full sun.

Water: moderately dry to dry.

Onagraceae : Oenothera suffrutescens