Common evening primrose

Prepared by Jennifer L. D’Appollonio, Assistant Scientist, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469. Updated April 2019.

Scientific name: Oenothera biennis L.

Common name(s): common evening primrose, evening star, King’s cure-all

Links: USDA PLANTS Profile, NPIN Profile, Go Botany

Images: (to see enlargements [PC]: click on image, then right click and choose “view image”)


– biennial

-herbaceous forb

-flowers open in the evening

-yellow to gold corolla is 2-5 cm wide, with four petals

-leaves are

  • basal
  • 10-30 cm long
  • stem leaves are alternate and lanceolate
  • hairy

– generally flowers July to September in ME

– may be confused with O. parviflora or O. villosa; see left sidebar of Go Botany webpage


-full sun

-dry open fields




-attracts humming birds

-the seed capsules provide food

Natural History:

-used by the Cherokee, Iroquois, Ojibwas, and Potawatomi Native American Tribes

– the young leaves and shoots are edible

-the roots were chewed and rubbed onto the muscles to improve strength

-used to treat pain associated with menstruation as well as bowel pain



Heinrich, B. 1976. Flowering phenologies: Bog, woodland, and disturbed habitats. Ecology. 57(5):890-899.

Immel , Dianna L. “COMMON EVENING-PRIMROSE Oenothera Biennis L. .” Plant Fact Sheet , USDA, NRCS, National Plant Data Center, c/o Environmental Horticulture Department, University of California, Davis, California , June 2001,