Q: I noticed these wildflowers growing along a wooded area near my home. They look similar to the “Whirling Butterfly” plant also called Gaura which I have purchased at a local garden center. Do you know what they might be called?
A: Believe it or not, scientists often develop ornamental plants found in retail stores from the native, wild specimens growing in our natural areas. The ornamental plant called Whirling Butterflies, Gaura lindheimeri, most often has white flowers which are produced on long, thin stalks making the flower appear to be a butterfly flitting on the breeze. There are other common cultivars of G. lindheimeri such as ‘Corrie’s Gold’, ‘Pink Cloud’ and ‘Crimson Butterflies’ which may be found at your local plant nursery. The cultivated ornamental gaura plants listed above range in heights from 2 – 4 feet. It would be important to know the potential mature height as the shorter ones should be planted in front of the taller ones. The wildflower photo you sent me might be Slender Gaura or Slender Stalk Beeblossom, Gaura filipes. It is difficult to be certain but most of these plants are commonly known as beeblossom. I have attached a photograph I took from a cluster found locally at Egan’s Greenway a few days ago. As you can see, the plant in the photo is similar to yours. Gaura or beeblossom plants, as their name suggests, attract bees which makes them a fun addition to any home garden. They fit well in any informal garden area that receives full sun and requires very little water or tending.