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BABY'S BREATH Gypsophila paniculata

Babys-Breath-DSC_3679.jpg (120295 bytes)  a.k.a Tumbleweed

While Baby's Breath is used commercially by florists for flower arrangements and bouquets, in the wild it is sometimes considered a noxious weed. 

A perennial plant, it grows mostly in waste places, fields, roadsides, beaches and other open, sandy, disturbed sites. It forms sizeable local populations in soils that are not strongly acidic.The plant can reduce the crude protein content of hay in fields it infests.Livestock will graze on the weed. In Europe, the root is used for its saponin content. 

The white (or rarely light purplish pink) flowers appear in the summer and fall, then the plant dries back to its skeletal form where it becomes tumbleweed-like.

At maturity, the plant has a thick, deep penetrating root system which allows it to survive in arid conditions. It survives by a persistent root system which may extend four meters into the soil. The overwintering roots, with abundant food reserves, give rise to new shoots in the spring. 

The first shoots appear in late April. Branching develops on the shoots in early May. The plants appear leafy at this stage. Flower buds, which do not appear until the third year of growth, appear in early June and occur in clusters. Buds appear from early July into August. Fruits begin to form in mid-July and mature and split open by late July. 

Seedlings emerge in early May. The seedlings grow to an average height of six cm after six weeks of growth. Only one shoot (with no branching) develops per plant during the first year. The shoots remain green until killed by frost in the fall. Root growth during the first two years of growth is rapid.

The weed is able to invade and compete with other species in a number of habitats. The greatest density of plants usually occurs on protected slopes and in ravines where the supply of moisture and opportunity to trap mature tumbling seed-bearing plants is greatest.

Botanists do not know how Baby's Breath pollinates but the floral structure suggests cross-pollination. A single plant averages 13,700 seeds with wind appearing to be the most prevalent disperser. Most seeds drop to the ground near the parent plant, but if the seed capsules do not open completely, the seeds may be carried lengthy distances before being dropped. 

Botanical varieties of Baby's Breath have been developed for compact habit, abundant large petals, and/or pink petals. Occasional naturalized plants are purple-tinged.



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