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Common Evening Primrose

Oenothera biennis

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Onagraceae (Willowherb)
Life Cycle:
Annual, Biennial or Perennial
Maximum Size:
150 centimetres tall
Fields, gardens, grassland, meadows, riverbanks, roadsides, sand dunes, seaside, wasteland, woodland.

Yellow, 4 petals
The flowers appear in leafy spikes. They are bright yellow and bowl-shaped with an X-shaped stigma. Flowers measure about 1 inch (2.5cm) across. The tip of the flower spike is green, unlike the Large-flowered Evening Primrose (Oenothera glazioviana) whose spikes are red at the very top. Pollinated by bees, butterflies and moths.
The fruit is a capsule, 2 to 4cm long and up to 6mm wide. The seeds ripen from August to October.
Oval to lance-shaped leaves, up to 8 inches (20cm) long and 1 inch (2.5cm) wide. Leaf margins are wavy but not toothed (or sometimes slightly dentate). The leaves are similar to those of a willow tree. The erect stems are hairy but not red at their bases like the similar looking Large-flowered Evening Primrose. The stems are green but can sometimes be tinged red. Biennial.
Flowers are slightly lemon-scented.
Other Names:
Coffee Plant, Cure-all, Evening Primrose, Evening Star, Fever Plant, Field Primrose, Four O'clock, German Rampion, Hog Weed, King's Cure-all, Large Rampion, Night Willowherb, Scabbish, Scurvish, Sun Drop, Weedy Evening Primrose, Wild Four O'clock.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Oenothera biennis, also known as common evening primrose or evening primrose, is a species of flowering plant in the evening primrose family. It is native to North America and is found in a variety of habitat types, including grasslands, meadows, and forests. Oenothera biennis is a biennial herb, which means it takes two years to complete its life cycle. In the first year, it grows a low-lying rosette of leaves. In the second year, it produces a tall stem with long, narrow leaves and large, yellow flowers that bloom in the summer. The flowers are a popular nectar source for bees and other insects. Oenothera biennis is often used in gardens as an ornamental plant, either as a standalone herb or in containers. It is generally easy to grow and does well in well-draining soil. It can tolerate a wide range of conditions, including drought, making it a good choice for dry gardens.


Common Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) is a beautiful wildflower native to North America that has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. It is also known by various names such as fever plant, king's cure-all, night willow herb, and scabish.

The Common Evening Primrose is an annual or biennial plant that grows to a height of 2-6 feet tall. Its leaves are long, narrow and toothed, while the bright yellow flowers bloom in the evenings and open for only one night. The plant produces an edible seed oil that is rich in essential fatty acids and has been used for a variety of health benefits.

One of the most notable health benefits of Common Evening Primrose oil is its ability to improve skin health. The oil is rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is an essential fatty acid that helps to soothe dry and itchy skin, reduce inflammation, and improve skin hydration. It is commonly used to treat skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Common Evening Primrose oil is also used to improve women's health. It has been shown to help regulate menstrual cycles and relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), including cramps, mood swings, and bloating. The oil is also used to alleviate menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats.

In addition to its use for skin and women's health, Common Evening Primrose oil is also believed to have a number of other health benefits. For example, it has been used to improve joint health and reduce joint pain, to improve heart health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and to support the health of the nervous system.

It's important to note that while Common Evening Primrose oil is considered safe for most people, it is not recommended for people taking blood thinners or antipsychotic medication, as it may interact with these medications. It is also not recommended for people with seizure disorders, as it may increase the risk of seizures.

Common Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) is a beautiful and versatile plant that has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. Whether you are looking to improve your skin health, relieve menstrual or menopausal symptoms, or support overall health and well-being, Common Evening Primrose oil is a safe and natural option to consider. As always, it is recommended to speak with your healthcare provider before adding any new supplement to your health routine.

The Common Evening Primrose is not only used for its medicinal properties, but it is also a popular ornamental plant. The bright yellow flowers of the Common Evening Primrose are a beautiful addition to any garden, and they attract a variety of pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and moths. The plant is also an important food source for many species of wildlife, including deer, rabbits, and songbirds.

In addition to its ornamental and wildlife value, the Common Evening Primrose is also a valuable crop plant. The seeds of the plant are rich in oil, which is used for a variety of industrial and cosmetic applications. The oil is used as a lubricant, a fuel, and an ingredient in a variety of cosmetic and personal care products such as soaps, shampoos, and lotions.

The Common Evening Primrose is relatively easy to grow, and it is well adapted to a variety of growing conditions. The plant prefers well-drained soils and full sun to partial shade, but it is also drought tolerant and can withstand a wide range of temperatures. It is a hardy plant that is resistant to pests and diseases, making it an ideal choice for both beginner and experienced gardeners.

Another interesting fact about the Common Evening Primrose is that it is believed to have been used by Native American communities for a variety of medicinal purposes. The plant was used as a traditional remedy for a number of ailments, including headaches, muscle pain, and joint pain. It was also used as a natural remedy for skin conditions such as eczema and rashes.

In modern times, scientific research has confirmed the effectiveness of Common Evening Primrose oil for many of the conditions for which it was traditionally used. For example, research has shown that the oil is effective in reducing the symptoms of eczema and psoriasis, and it has been found to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.

One of the unique aspects of Common Evening Primrose oil is that it is a source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is an essential fatty acid that is not produced by the body. This means that it must be obtained from the diet, and Common Evening Primrose oil is one of the richest sources of GLA.

Common Evening Primrose oil is available in a variety of forms, including capsules, liquid oil, and topical creams. When taking the oil orally, it is important to follow the recommended dosage, as too much can cause digestive upset. Topical creams and lotions can be applied directly to the skin to soothe dry and itchy skin, and to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

In conclusion, the Common Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) is a versatile plant with a rich history of use for medicinal and ornamental purposes. Whether you are looking to explore the health benefits of Common Evening Primrose oil, to add a beautiful and beneficial plant to your garden, or to use it as a crop plant, this plant is well worth considering.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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