Thursday, February 16, 2012

Oenothera biennis - Evening Primrose

I have always loved this plant. An elderly woman from my church gave me a start of a more cultivated form many years ago. Always so sunny and bright, just as she was. The version that grows in my fields and meadows is taller and more likely to seed about, but the yellow flowers are still cheery. As the name implies, this is a biennial. In its first year, it makes a rosette close to the ground, rather nondescript and pretty easily ignored. The second year it shoot up a tall bloomscape with lance shaped leaves and those pretty primrose yellow flowers which bloom from late spring through fall. This is an American native and prefers open fields or roadsides. It can tolerate some drought. Since the flowers open in the evening (and last until the next day) it is pollinated by moths, especially the Sphinx Moth. The blossoms are also attractive to bees, bumblebees and hummingbirds. In the fall you'll find Goldfinches eating the seeds.

As far as medicinal uses, the whole plant is gathered and dried and then a tea is made from a teaspoonful of the dried plant to a cup of hot water. It can be drunk hot or cold. It was said to be astringent and sedative, a good remedy for coughs or skin problems.

A pretty flower, maybe not one you'd want in your perennial border, except maybe at the back, though it's cultivated cousins are more than welcome in my garden.


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