Common Evening Primrose – Oenthera biennis

When is a common flower not so common? When it’s a little tricky to ID.

Last year, this chipper yellow flower was a fixture on our lot. This year not so much due to landscaping. Common Evening Primrose spruces up corners and meadows all over the place as early as mid-June. Its blossom comprises four separate, overlapping petals with little notches in the middle of them. Inside is one stigma and five or five stamen. It isn’t particularly fragrant.

Oenothera biennis full plantReaching two to three feet tall, each plant usually has two to five blooms at any given time and many more buds wrapped in pink foliage.

Oenothera biennis blossoms

Looking at it from the top, you can observe its habit of growing in a slightly spiral pattern.

Oenothera biennis top down
It’s a little scrubby looking when it grows solo, but when surrounded by thick grasses and other plant life, its blossoms are the only thing you see.

Oenothera biennis full plant 2
Its seed pods are rather alien looking. They are a bit sticky, covered in tiny dark somethings and break neatly into four parts.

Oenothera biennis seed pod close-upThis one was not ready to bear seed, but the pod broke open easily enough. It’s slightly sticky and covered in tiny nodes, which I assume deter would-be seed raiders.

Oenothera biennis, aka Common Evening Primrose, grows wild across much of North America, with regional variations. For instance, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at wildflower.org notes that it has a soft lemon scent.

Wildflowers — identification guide — Discover Life. (n.d.). Retrieved September 05, 2016, from http://www.discoverlife.org/mp/20q?guide=Wildflowers

Common Evening Primrose. (n.d.). Retrieved September 05, 2016, from http://oceanscape.aquarium.org/explore/species/common-evening-primrose

NPIN: Native Plant Database, Oenothera biennis. (n.d.). Retrieved September 05, 2016, from http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=OEBI

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