Wildflower Wednesday-Oenothera Biennis


Evening primroses, such a romantic name, suggesting Victorian novels and fragrant pathways. Common evening primrose, Oenothera biennis is no shrinking violet, oh no. It is not even a primrose at all. At a strapping six feet tall, this plant has a strong presence wherever it decides to show up.


First noticed blooming at offspring Semi’s semi-wild garden, standing head and shoulders above all of the other weeds wildflowers in August several years ago, seeds were snatched, pocketed and taken home for some research before sowing. It was then we found the name of the tall vertical accent with the pale yellow blooms, Oenothera biennis and learned it was a native found in dry, well drained open places in the Eastern US and Southern Canada, common in Tennessee. It is said to be hardy in USDA Zones 5-8.


Give this plant plenty of room for the attractive branching to be shown in the spotlight along with the height. It will seed about, with a rosette appearing the first year and the flower spike shooting for the stars the second, as most biennials do.


Several common names allude to the medicinal qualities of Oenothera biennis, such as King’s cure-all, fever plant and cure-all. Headaches and skin disorders, among many other ailments are said to be relieved with compounds contained in this plant. (As always, we do not recommend self medication). The roots, seeds, oil and leaves are said to be edible and nutritious. The above photo shows the Oenothera biennis peeking out from behind the curtain of blooming bronze fennel,Foeniculum vulgare.


Oenothera biennis flowers are favored by pollinators, birds and other wildlife. While out pointing and shooting with the usual abandon with the camera set on auto, we noticed this ruby throated hummingbird darting around the red salvias. We were far away, but used the zoom to its max to follow the hummer as it dined. When it sipped on the evening primrose, my heart did a somersault as the shutter was clicked. The little bird can be seen from behind, just below the Fairegarden watermark. It is a poor shot, overexposed and cropped beyond what is proper, but still…

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Visit my dear friend Gail of Clay and Limestone to see more wildflowers that are featured monthy when the fourth Wednesday rolls around.
Frances

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17 Responses to Wildflower Wednesday-Oenothera Biennis

  1. Frances what a delightful wildflower. I love the yellow colors and so do apparently the wildlife…what a wonderful capture of the hummer.

    Hi Donna, thanks. This wildflower is more like a small tree! Perfect for highflying pollinators to visit.
    Frances

  2. Lea says:

    Hello!
    Lovely evening Primrose!
    Interesting information.
    Mine bloomed in June-July.
    I was amazed at how fast they went from tiny bud to full bloom.
    Happy Wildflower Wednesday!
    Lea
    Lea’s Menagerie

    Hello, Lea! Thanks for visiting. I have another Oenothera that bloomed earlier and is much shorter and a perennial. Isn’t it grand how diverse the flowers and plants are, all in the same family? Just like humans.
    Frances

  3. Gail says:

    It’s wonderful and has many characteristics of a perfect plant for my garden, too. Easy, attracts pollinators and seeds about! Oh, and they are pretty flowers! Now to see if it did make it home from across the mountain! happy WW! xoxogail

    I hope so, Gail, that the plant you bought at Mouse Creek did indeed make it safely to Clay and Limestone. It would blend in nicely with your other tall guys.
    xoxoxo
    Frances

  4. I have the shorter kind that is a perennial, too. I’ve never heard of this tall one. What a beauty! I’m glad you cropped and pointed out the hummer. What fun! I need to finish up my WW post this evening.

    Thanks, Sue. The perennial one is great, blooming in late spring/early summer here. This is a totally different fellow, biennial and a giant!
    Frances

  5. Rose says:

    I had no idea these would get so tall! I passed up some of the shorter variety at a plant sale last spring and kicked myself afterward. Love these yellow blooms, and yes, the name does evoke some images of romantic Victorian novels.

    Thanks Rose. The short ones are so sweet, if you get the chance to pick one up, you won’t be sorry. Those do spread by running roots as well as seeding about. The tall guy is strictly biennial, and seeds are the only way to get it going. Ah, the romance of the garden…
    Frances

  6. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I have often thought about bringing this wildling into my garden. It is such a beautiful shade of yellow. I didn’t know it was a biennial as I see it in the same areas in the wild every year.

    They do a good job of keeping themselves going in the wild, don’t they, Lisa? The first year rosette is pretty, with a distinctive white strip down the center. This is the best year I have ever seen for them along the unmown roadsides here. Or else I am just noticing them now.
    Frances

  7. Had Sundrops in Virginia and it was such a bright sunny spot in the garden. I like many of the Oenotheras, but know they can spread pretty well. Have to find the best spot before planting any.

    This one will only spread by seeds, Janet, it does not run and dies after blooming. But it is large, give it room and plenty of sun, then stand back the second year!
    Frances

  8. Diane says:

    Good Morning Frances and greetings again from Canada. One of the serious joys of the oil of Evening Primrose is relieving many of the symptoms of menopause. This is a safe product and it really does work. A good and reputable Health Food Store will have it. They grew wild where I was living and I used to thank them as I drove by from all the grateful women out there. Nature always has a way to help us doesn’t it?

    Hi Diane, thanks for adding to the information here. You are so right in that everything in nature has a purpose. We should all do as you do and thank the plants.
    Frances

  9. Very pretty! We have a similar variety here, Oenothera hookeri. I put out one plant a few years ago, and now it’s fun to see where else its offspring to decide to pop up each year. It’s always a pleasant surprise to see them.

    Thanks CV. That is the way our tall evening primrose is, it pops up all over the place, usually sited much better than I would have.
    Frances

  10. I am afraid I have this plant in a container this year and it has performed poorly in the heat. I am ready to take that container apart for fall so I will try it in the garden. It can be a bit messy in our area so I may be sorry.

    Eileen

    I am sorry about the poor performance, Eileen. What you have may be another type of evening primrose if it is messy, the trailing, spreading one. This is a biennial that blooms then dies, spreading by seeds. The rosettes the first year are about 6 to 8 inches in diameter with a distinct white stripe down the middle.
    Frances

  11. Patsi says:

    She’s a beauty ! So how’s blotanical …did Stuart give up on giving awards ? Haven’t been there or here come to think of it in ages.

    thanks Patsi. I have no idea about blotanical. You might go there and check it out.
    Frances

  12. I can see a stand of these wonderful flowers from my office window as I read your post. We grow them to attract moths into the garden. Recently we have grown an orange flowered variant and they look really good too.

    That sounds great, Green Bench. I did not know they attract moths, but of course they do, being open at night. I would love to find an orange flowered one.
    Frances

  13. ZielonaMila says:

    Beautiful photographs, beautiful flowers, I like to admire so beautiful views. I am greeting

    Thanks for visiting!

  14. Ambius says:

    I do love wildflowers – yet sometimes they seem so unappreciated! Yours look beautiful, you take such wonderful photos.

    Simon @Ambius

    Thanks, Simon. The wildflowers are really unappreciated here in Tennessee. They grow wild along the roadsides, and are mowed and sprayed by work crews, on the taxpayer dime, no less. When they first showed up in my garden, they were pulled as weeds. Now I know better.
    Frances

  15. This used to be a common roadside flower here in Nashville, but no more since the highway department started poisoning every verge or cutting everything to stubble-

    I am sorry about the ways of the highway department, AG. The same treatment is done here in Tennessee, as well. Lucky there are still country roads and off the beaten path streets that escape such treatment. Growing plants like this in our gardens will help keep them available for the pollinators, too, until everyone sees the light about our environment.
    Frances

  16. What an absolutely beautiful blog you have, the photograghy is so lovely, now i want to grow lilies.

    Thank you, Karen. I do so appreciate your kind words. Lilies, a garden cannot have too many of them!
    Frances

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