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Flaigg, Norman G.
Oenothera biennis L.
Common evening-primrose, King's cure-all
Onagraceae (Evening-Primrose Family)
Synonym(s): Oenothera biennis ssp. caeciarum, Oenothera biennis ssp. centralis, Oenothera biennis var. pycnocarpa, Oenothera muricata, Oenothera pycnocarpa
USDA Symbol: oebi
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
At the top of a leafy stalk bloom lemon-scented, large yellow flowers. Stem hairy, often purple-tinged. King’s cure-all or common evening primrose is an erect, 2-6 ft. biennial with leafy, branched stems from a basal rosette. The bright-yellow, four-petaled flowers, up to 2 inches across, open at night. These fragrant flowers occur in a many-flowered, terminal spike.
The flowers of this night-flowering biennial open in the evening and close by noon. The plant takes 2 years to complete its life cycle, with basal leaves becoming established the first year, and flowering occurring the second. The roots are edible, and the seeds are important as bird feed. Most of the evening-primroses have yellow flowers. Showy Evening-primrose (O. speciosa) has pink or white flowers.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Biennial Habit: Herb Leaf:
Fruit: Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Jul , Aug , Sep
, WV Canada: AB
, SK Native Distribution:
Nf. to s.e. Alt., s. to GA, LA
& n.e. TX Native Habitat:
Dry, rocky plains; disturbed areas; lake shores; open woods
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Rocky or sandy soils.
Conditions Comments: Common evening primrose does well in newly established landscapes, but does not persist. Seeds stay, however, and germinate if soil is disturbed.
BenefitUse Wildlife: The flowers of this plant attract a variety of moths. Small mammals eat the roots and leaves of young plants. Birds eat the seeds. Deer graze older plants.
Use Food: Roots and shoots edible.
Use Medicinal: Clinical trials with Evening Primrose oil indicate that it may be evaluable in treating a number of disorders, including heart disease and arthritis. (Clough) Studies have shown that evening-primrose oil can help treat eczema, asthma, migraine headaches, heart disease, high coholesterol, inflammation, PMS, breast problems, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and even alcoholism. (Kershaw)
Amerindians used root tea for obesity, bowel pains; poulticed roots for piles, bruises; rubbed root on muscles to give athletes strength (Foster & Duke)
Whole plant soaked in warm water used as a poultice to heal bruises.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds , Hummingbirds
PropagationDescription: Sow unstratified seed in fall – stratified in spring. Tip cuttings can be taken in spring.
Seed Collection: Collect in Aug. to Nov.
Seed Treatment: Dry stratification greatly increases the germination rate.
Commercially Avail: yes
National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
From the National Suppliers Directory
According to the inventory provided by Associate Suppliers, this plant is available at the following locations:
- Coldwater, ONOhio Prairie Nursery
- Hiram, OH
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:
Texas Discovery Gardens
- Dallas, TXNative Seed Network
- Corvallis, OR
Record Last Modified: 2012-12-09
Research By: TWC Staff