Yellow Evening Primrose, Evening Star, Onagre • Legend and Lore • In the Garden

Oenothera biennis


  • Native to North America, naturalized in Europe
  • Biennial- zone 3-4
  • 1.6m
  • Full Sun/li>
  • Dry, sandy, poor soil
  • Blooms June to September

Legend and Lore

The genus name refers to Ass-catcher; the Greek name for another plant! Also in Greek Oinos is wine and Thera is hunting; roots are reputed to dispel the effects of wine so that you drink wine and then hunt for the roots. Legend has it if you infuse the root in wine you can tame the wild beasts!

The name “Evening Primrose” is derived from the fact that the yellow petals emit phosphorescent light at night and that the flowers bloom at twilight and are also fertilized by twilight flying insects that are attracted by its’ delicate fragrance; as the season progresses the flowers often stay open all day. In the language of flowers it signifies constancy.

The whole plant is edible, pharmaceutical properties are prized - the oil is used for eczema, high blood pressure, anti-coagulant, premenstrual syndrome and other degenerative diseases. High in gamma-linoleic acid which is an essential fatty acid and helps regulate liver function. In cosmetics it is a key ingredient for facial masques that refreshes the complexion.

In the Garden

Easily cultivated by seed, prefers dry sandy and poor soil; a single erect stem biennial (2 year cycle) that can reach 1.6m in height. Leaves in a basal rosette for the first year and alternate and lanceolate in shape, flowers generally open at dusk and close at dawn, bright yellow 3 to 4cm across with 4 broad petals and 4 sepals forming clusters.

In the Kitchen