Texas firewheel is an endangered species under the umbrella of the SFA Gardens conservation program. The mantra of our program is something we call the three R’s. Rescue, Research, and Reintroduction. The Texas white firewheel makes its home in East Texas in sixteen occurrences. Gaillardia aestivalis is yellow-flowered while var. winkleri is generally white with occasional lavender to pinkish to maroon purple flowers. While endangered the plant is quite garden worthy and there are great opportunities for selection.
Global Range: G. aestivalis var. winkleri is found in only one county along the West Gulf Coastal Plain of East Texas.
Texas Range: Hardin
Type Specimen: Cory 20067 (Gray Herbarium, Harvard University); Vicinity of Fletcher Lake, about five miles south of Silsbee, Hardin County, Texas, September 15, 1936.
Synonymy: Gaillardia lutea Greene var. winkleri Cory
Current Federal Status: Endangered
Rescue target: Gaillardia aestivalis var. winkleri is a misunderstood species with vague details of taxonomy. Also, little information is known about the current status of accurate localities, habitat structure, current distribution and range, potential range, primary threats, cultural needs, management requirements, and restoration potential.
Habitat: G. aestivalis var. winkleri occurs in deep loose sands in openings, sandy woodlands, and in pine-oak woodlands particularly along the unshaded margin. Herbaceous associates include Ambrosia artemisiifolia, Andropogon gerardii, Berlanderia sp., Chamaechrista fasiculata, Centrosema virginianum, Cnidosculus texanus, Croton capitatus, C. glandulosus, Croptilon divaricatum, Diodia teres, Euphorbia cordifolia, E. corollata, Froelichia floridana, Heterotheca latifolia, H. pilosa, Lechea mucronata, Liatris elegans, Monarda punctata, Panicum brachyanthum, Ruellia humilis, Schizachyrium scoparium, Silene subciliata, Solidago nitida, Stylosanthes biflora, Tradescantia reverchonii, Trichostema dichtomum, and Vernonia texana (TNHP 1993).
General Description: G. aestivalis var. winkleri is a perennial white-flowered variety of Gaillardia aestivalis, tap-rooted, with slender rhizomes, and is restricted to loose, white sandy soils in Hardin County, Texas. The variety winkleri does not co-occur with its closely related taxon, G. aestivalis var. flavoriens nor with the species G. aestivalis var. aestivalis.
An albino form of Gaillardia pulchella was described in 1914 by Cockerell. In a “Revision of the Genus Gaillardia” by Susan Fry Biddulph a paragraph was devoted to the white Gaillardia growing in Hardin County, Texas. Plant material was sent to her by V. L. Cory and P. A. Winkler, a landscape gardener and botanist both of Beaumont, Texas. Biddulph grew this plant in her garden and the rays and disks were pure white. She states that, “Because G. lutea has also been collected in Hardin County, Texas, the ‘white Gaillardia‘ may be only an albino form of that species” (Turner 1979).
Two collections of G. lutea, the yellow Gaillardia, are cited from Hardin County by Biddulph: the earlier had been collected at Fletcher in 1916 (Palmer 10569), and the other from the vicinity of Fletcher Lake (Cory 20067). Neither one of these collections were the yellow Gaillardia. During four years that Cory collected in Hardin County and during the many years Winkler botanized in Hardin County, neither had ever seen specimens of the yellow Gaillardia. Cory stated that “the white is not a form of the yellow as interpreted by Biddulph”. In Cory’s experience “such forms occur only along with the species” (Turner 1979).
In October, 1945, in another nearby locality the white showed a different aspect in this locality which is a tributary of Village Creek, two and one-half miles west of Silsbee, and five miles north of the other localities. Most of the plants bore white flowers (Cory 49879) but in one limited locality there were several plants with predominantly pink rays (Cory 49885).
Since Cory’s description of the variety, at least four additional collections, all from Hardin County in the vicinity of Silsbee along Village Creek have been made (Correll 31999, LL. Correll & Correll 36011, LL; Turner 9233, TEX; and Watson 1513, TEX).
Phenology: G. aestivalis var. winkleri flowers from May-June in the spring (TNHP 1993).
Population Biology: Information on pollinators, seed dispersal, and germination requirements is currently known by Dr. Tom Watson, University of Texas Herbarium, Austin.
Special Identifying Features: G. aestivalis var. winkleri is readily distinguished from all other Texas Gaillardia species by its white to pinkish ray florets. No other variety of Gaillardia aestivalis occurs in the immediate area, although var. aestivalis is known in southeast Texas. G. aestivalis var. winkleri is closely related to G. aestivalis var. flavovirens (Turner 1979). Gaillardia aestivalis var. winkleri is perhaps closest to G. aestivalis var. flavovirens (C. Mohr) Cronq., a taxon of eastern Texas and adjacent states. It possesses yellow disk and ray florets and is a perennial with rhizomes (at least in east-central Texas). Turner (1979) stated that var. winkleri is essentially an albino population (or populations) of var. flavovirens which has undergone at least some habitat selection (white sandy soils, versus the moistly red soils wherein occurs var. flavovirens and var. aestivalis) and presumably local, if not regional, isolation.
‘Grape Sensation’ is a Dawn Stover introduction from SFA Gardens, a color form featuring purple petals. It has enjoyed some modest success in the trade and is reproduced by cuttings (softwood cuttings under mist in June).
In fact, there’s really great opportunity to create a spectrum of petal colors. At the Pineywoods Native Plant Center we find many seedlings featuring a range of petal colors.
Texas Organization For Endangered Species 1993. Endangered, Threatened and Watch List Species. Publ. 9, Rev. 3., Austin, Texas.
Texas Natural Heritage Program 1994. Site survey summaries and element of occurrence database. TNHP Files, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Austin, Texas, USA.
Turner, B.L. 1979. Gaillardia aestivalis var. winkleri (Asteraceae), a white-flowered tetraploid taxon endemic to southeastern Texas. Southwest Naturalist 24 (4): 621-624.
Warnock, Michael. 1994. Texas trailing phlox recovery plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Aluquerque, New Mexico. 42 pp.
Kral, R. 1983. A report on some rare, threatened, or endangered forest-related vascular plants of the South. USDA, Forest Service, Technical Publication R8-TP2. 1305 pp.
Nixon, E. S. and J. G. Kell 1993. Ferns and Herbaceous Flowering Plants of East Texas. First Edition. pp. 455. (unpublished manuscript: Dr. Elray Nixon, Red Rose Apt. 203, Las Vegas, NV).
Grogg, Cathy. 1989. How to Establish a Coordinate Locating System. The Public Garden – the Journal of the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta (4)3: 28-31.
Murphy, D. D. 1988. Challenges to biological diversity in urban areas. In E. O. Wilson [ed.]. Biodiversity. National Academy Press. Washington, D. C. Pp. 71-76.
Wilson, E. O. 1988. The current state of biological diversity. In E. O. Wilson [ed.]. Biodiversity. National Academy Press. Washington, D. C. Pp. 3-18.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1991. Fifty-six animals and plants proposed in August-October 1991 for Endangered Species Act protection. Endangered Species Technical Bulletin Vol. XVI Nos. 9-12: 8.