Botanical Name: Gaura parviflora
Species: G. parviflora
Synonyms: G. mollis James; velvetweed, velvety gaura, downy gaura, or smallflower gaura
Common Names: Velvetweed
Habitat : Gaura parviflora is native to the central United States and northern Mexico, from Nebraska and Wyoming south to Durango and Nuevo Leon. It grows on upland prairies, abandoned fields, vacant lots, areas along railroads, and barren waste areas. Open areas with a history of disturbance are preferred.
Gaura parviflora is an annual or biennial wildflower plant which is 2-6′ tall and either unbranched or sparingly branched. The central stem is light green to reddish brown, terete (round in cross-section), and covered with fine hairs. Ascending alternate leaves occur along the lower to middle sections of the stem. Individual leaves are 2-5″ long and ¼-1″ across; they are narrowly lanceolate to lanceolate, sessile (or nearly so), and either entire (smooth) or sparsely denticulate with barely perceptible teeth. Leaf surfaces are light gray-green and either glabrous or sparsely to moderately covered with appressed fine hairs. Leaf venation is pinnate. The upper stem (or stems) terminates in a narrow spike of flowers about ½-2½’ long. Only a few flowers are in bloom at the same time, beginning at the bottom of the spike and ending at its apex. Each flower is about ¼” across, consisting of 4 spreading petals, 4 drooping sepals, an inferior ovary, 8 stamens, and a single style with an X-shaped stigma. The petals are white, pink, or magenta (often becoming more deeply colored with age); they are oblanceolate in shape. The sepals are light green to red and linear-lanceolate. The ovary is light green to red and narrowly cylindrical. The central stalk of the floral spike is light green to red and glabrous. The blooming period occurs during the summer and lasts about 2 months. The flowers open during the evening and close during the morning. However, on cloudy days, they may remain open later. Each flower lasts only 1-2 days. In the absence of cross-pollination, the flowers are self-fertile. They are replaced by ellipsoid seed capsules that become about 1/3″ (9 mm.) in length at maturity. Each capsule contains 2-4 seeds about 2-3 mm. in length that are lanceoloid and somewhat flattened. The root system consists of a stout taproot.
The flowers are cross-pollinated by bees and moths. Both nectar and pollen are available as floral rewards. The foliage, flowers, and other parts of Small-Flowered Gaura and similar species are sometimes eaten by various insects, including the flea beetle Altica foliaceae, the aphid Macrosiphum pseudorosae, Hippiscus ocelote (Wrinkled Grasshopper), Melanoplus keeleri luridus (Keeler’s Grasshopper), and some moth caterpillars. These moth species include Proserpinus guarae (Proud Sphinx), Proserpinus juanita (Green-Banded Day Sphinx), and Schinia gaurae (Clouded Crimson). The foliage is palatable to goats and probably other mammalian herbivores.
Cultivation: The preference is full sun, mesic to dry conditions, and almost any kind of soil that is well-drained. Resistance to hot dry weather is excellent, although some of the lower leaves may wither away. This wildflower is somewhat weedy.
Among the Zuni people, fresh or dried root would be chewed by medicine man before sucking snakebite and poultice applied to wound.
A poultice made of the crushed plant has been used to treat muscular pains and arthritis.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.