Winter Plant ID: Common Evening-primrose

Common Evening-primrose (Oenothera biennis) is another must learn winter plant. Like Common Mullein, this plant is a biennial, and thus found in two forms on the winter landscape. Overwintering rosettes of this plant tend to have extensive red pigmentation and a roughly symmetrical leaf arrangement.

Photo of Common Evening-primrose rosette

The dead form is a brown stalk, often quite tall, with seed pods covering the tops. The four-parted pods split open to release tiny ripe seeds. On many occasions, I've watched American Goldfinches feeding on them.

Photo of Common Evening-primrose close

Commercial oils produced from Common Evening-primrose seed have brought this plant's name into the cultural spotlight. I can't vouch for the commercial products, but I have eaten and enjoyed the taproot of this plant, before it sends its energy into a flower stalk, as well as the tender rapidly growing flower stalk itself. Maine botanist Arthur Haines discusses other uses for this plant in his book Ancestral Plants (2010).

Leave a Comment