Evening primrose

Oenothera biennis

Evening primrose gets its name from its large yellow flowers, which resemble primroses and open up late in the day. It has become a well-known name largely due to the precious skin-rejuvenating and hormone-balancing oil extracted from its seeds.

Evening primrose is thought to have originated in Central America, spreading to North and South America where Native Americans used the whole plant for a range of ailments from skin complaints to water-retention. It was introduced to Europe at the beginning of the 17th century and is now naturalised in Europe and Asia. All parts of the plant are edible, making it a popular plant for foragers.

Classified as a biennial, evening primrose is a versatile species that is able to survive in a diverse range of challenging environments, from desert regions to riverbeds, seashores and mountains. In an English garden it will do best in full sunshine, but will most likely survive wherever you choose to grow it. The late opening of its flowers provide an important source of nectar to moths and other night-time pollinators.

As the short-lived flowers die a pod forms containing their gift of tiny fatty acid packed seeds. Each successive night another whorl of flowers opens gradually progressing skywards towards the tip of the tall stem.

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