Clumped perennial 2-5(10) dm, spreading by roots, strigose or partly villous, varying to subglabrous; lvs crowded, lanceolate to narrowly oblong, mostly 1-4 cm and entire or coarsely few-toothed, or the lower larger and more cleft, but deciduous; spikes 5-15 cm, densely fld and elongating with age, often lax or nodding at the tip; bracts 2-5 mm; sep 5-9 mm, separately reflexed; pet 3-7 mm, becoming orange-red or deep maroon; fr strigose-puberulent, sessile, the terminal part 3-5 mm, strongly 4-angled and pyramidal (but with concave sides), abruptly contracted to a stout, 8-ribbed, subterete, stipe-like base mostly 1.5-2 mm long and nearly or fully as thick; seeds (1-)3 or 4; 2n=14, 28, 42, 56. Dry prairies and plains; s. Sask. and w. Minn. to w. Mo. and Tex., w. to B.C. and Calif., and s. to Mex.; occasionally intr. eastward to N.Y. May-Aug.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
Jepson 1993, McDougall 1973, Allred and Ivey 2012, Heil et al. 2013, Martin and Hutchins 1980
Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Subshrub General: Perennial herb, to 50 cm tall, from a woody base and thick taproot; stems clumped and branching above or below the ground; when branching below ground, the resulting horizontal stems may give rise to new plants; stems glabrous or canescent-strigose with long, spreading hairs. Leaves: Alternate and sessile along the stems; blades linear to narrowly elliptic, 1-6 cm long and 1-15 mm wide, with entire to coarsely wavy-serrate margins. Flowers: Pinkish, small but showy, and slightly asymmetrical; arranged in erect, dense terminal spikes; sepals 4, long and narrow, up to 1 cm long and reflexed (pointed downnward) at full flower; petals 4, elliptic and strongly clawed (tapering strongly at the base), 3-6 mm long, white, pink or red, and always fading to a dark reddish color. Fruits: Capsule pyramid-shaped and pubescent, 4-9 mm long and 1-3 mm wide, 4-angled and widest above the middle, tapering to a terete base; not splitting open but containing 3-4 ovoid, flat-sided, tan seeds. Ecology: Found on plains and hills, in limestone, calcareous, sand and clay substrates, from 2,000-8,000 ft (610-2438 m); flowers April-September. Distribution: Most of western N. Amer. from TX northeast to Ontario, west to British Columbia, and south through CA to s MEX. Notes: Can be distinguished by being a slightly woody perennial with stems lined with widely-linear, toothed leaves which can appear gray-green due to the stiff, appressed hairs; the pink flower petals are somewhat small for an Oenothera, only about 0.5 cm long; the fruit is widest above the middle and does not split open to release seeds. Confusingly, this plant was traditionally named Gaura coccinea. Now the entire genus of Gaura has been placed within Oenothera, and the specific epithet of this taxon has also been changed to suffrutescens. Ethnobotany: A cold infusion used to settle a child's stomach after vomiting; also used ceremonially as a life medicine and as an aid in catching wild horses. Etymology: Oenothera comes from the Greek oinos, wine, and therao, to seek or imbibe, alluding to the fact that the root of Oenothera biennis was used to flavor wine; suffrutescens means slightly woody. Synonyms: Gaura coccinea Editor: LCrumbacher and SBuckley 2010, FSCoburn 2015, AHazelton 2017