A Bit of Sunshine
March 27 2021
Is it a strange thing that I can tell you where I first encountered native evening primrose flowers 25 years ago? Perhaps it’s the large round rocks (flat on top) they were growing around and the fact that two of those rocks still sit in my gardens to remind me of the day a few friends and I found the flowers on a wildflower walk. Evening primroses are not rare, but were the only plants growing in that semi-desert bluff above a river. These were Oenothera caespitosa, Tufted Evening primrose or Gumbo Lily, bright white and extremely drought tolerant. They are (sigh) neither a primrose nor a lily, but a member of the Onagraceae family, which includes our native willowherb, also known as fireweed, and also Clarkia or Pink Fairies.
Evening primrose oil (produced from the seeds) reputedly has a lot of medicinal qualities. I use the qualifying word ‘reputedly’ because I am not giving medical advice, just talking plant talk. The oil contains gammalinolenic acid-an omega-6 fatty acid, which is used by the body to regulate blood pressure. Other suggested uses are to treat eczema, asthma, inflammations, PMS, and arthritis. The entire plant is edible, though an acquired taste so I read, I haven’t tried it. You can use the seeds like poppy seeds, also.
Evening primroses are a native American wildflower and can be an annual, biennial, or perennial. There are dozens of varieties in pink, white and yellow four petaled flowers that open in late afternoon and fade the next day. I have two yellow evening primroses in my garden -one is named Ozark Sundrops and the other is ‘Shimmer’ Evening Primrose. The latter was found in the garden of Colorado plantswoman Lauren Springer Ogden and it’s my favorite. The lemon yellow blooms rise up out of a cloud of slender gray-green leaves from July until October, shimmering like the sun popping out on a gray day. Over and over and over again.
Should you be so lucky as to have some like minded flower loving friends, a very fine thing to do is pack a lunch, go for a drive, and stop for every flower you see. Hopefully a lot of stops. Bring your plant books, a notebook and a camera-you won’t remember everything you see. Sit down and have a close look, maybe lie down. Because there's no end to nature’s wonders.
Oenothera fremontii, ‘Shimmer’ Evening Primrose
Oenothera missouriensis, Ozark Sundrops
Oenothera caespitosa, Tufted Evening Primrose