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Oenothera biennis (Common evening-primrose)
Hixson, John

Oenothera biennis

Oenothera biennis L.

Common Evening-primrose, King's Cure-all, Common Evening Primrose

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 eaten by some wildlife, 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.


From the Image Gallery

41 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Biennial
Habit: Herb
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 6 feet tall.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct


USA: AL , AR , CA , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , MT , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NV , NY , OH , OK , OR , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV
Canada: AB , BC , MB , NB , NL , NS , ON , PE , QC , 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 Conditions

Water 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.


Use 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

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Description: 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

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

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 Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Texas Discovery Gardens - Dallas, TX
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1989 VOL. 6, NO.2 - Wildflower Network Operates in Louisiana, Wildflower Handbook Published, Researc...

Additional resources

USDA: Find Oenothera biennis in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Oenothera biennis in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Oenothera biennis


Record Modified: 2023-02-21
Research By: TWC Staff

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