Gypsophila paniculata (Baby's Breath)
|Also known as:||Panicled Baby's-breath, Tall Baby's Breath|
|Habitat:||sun; dry sandy or gravelly soil; roadsides, railroads, waste areas, dunes|
|Bloom season:||July - September|
|Plant height:||1 to 3 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Branching cluster of hundreds of flowers on slender stalks. Flowers are 1/8 to ¼ inch across, somewhat bell-shaped with 5 spreading petals, usually white, occasionally purplish-pink. In the center is a greenish ovary with a split style at the tip, surrounded by white stamens. The calyx cupping the flower is green to purple, usually hairless and has 5 lobes shorter than the petals. Stalks are very slender, stiff, hairless, green to dark purple.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are opposite, lance-linear tapering to a pointed tip, stalkless, toothless, usually hairless, and covered with a waxy bloom giving a gray-green appearance. Lower leaves are largest, up to 4 inches long and ½ inch wide, becoming smaller as they ascend the stem and reduced to bracts in the flowering branches. Leaf nodes are swollen. Stems are much branched near the base, light green to purplish and covered with a waxy bloom, hairless except occasionally minutely rough-hairy or glandular near the base. Plants take on a dome to globe shape and have a long taproot.
Fruit is a round capsule containing several tiny black seeds. The capsules split open when mature, dropping much seed near the mother plant, but the whole plant often breaks off at the base and can travel tumbleweed style up to 1 km away, disbursing seed as it goes.
Baby's Breath is a popular plant in floral arrangements and bridal bouquets and a number of cultivars have been developed for flower color, flower size, number of petals, and plant shape/height. Like many other introduced species, it escaped cultivation and has become a roadside and agricultural weed, but may pose the greatest ecological threat in dunes, where it can form large colonies in this rare plant habitat. We know it is under-reported in Minnesota. Baby's Breath is not likely to be confused with any other species. The large, rounded mound of hundreds of tiny white flowers is pretty distinctive. It often looks like gray mist when seen along a roadside at 60 mph.
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Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Hubbard and Pine counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?