Cutleaf Evening Primrose

Scientific Name(s): Oenothera laciniata
Abundance: common
What: leaves, stem, fruit, root
How: leaves, stem, and fruit steamed, boiled; root boiled
Where: yards, flowerbeds, disturbed areas, fields
When: fall, winter, spring
Nutritional Value: some vitamins, minerals
Dangers: none reported

Leaf Arrangement: The leaves are arranged alternately along the stem.

Leaf Shape: The leaves are deeply lobed or divided, giving them a jagged, lace-like appearance. They typically measure about 1 to 6 inches in length.

Leaf Venation: The venation is pinnate, with a central vein and smaller veins branching out towards the leaf edges.

Leaf Margin: The margins are irregularly lobed or deeply cut.

Leaf Color: The leaves are green, sometimes with a reddish tinge along the veins or margins.

Flower Structure: The flowers are borne singly or in small clusters at the stem tips or in the leaf axils. Each flower has four petals and each petal has a small cleft at the tip.

Flower Color: The flowers are usually bright yellow but then turn red.

Fruit: The plant produces a elongated, rectangular, capsule-like fruit.

Seed: The seeds are small and enclosed within the capsule.

Stem: The stem is erect to sprawling and can be somewhat hairy.

Hairs: The stem and leaves are hairy.

Height: Oenothera laciniata typically grows to a height of 1 to 3 feet.

Cluster of night-blooming cutleaf evening primrose.
Primrose Evening Cutleaf

Cutleaf evening primrose flowers can be yellow or pinkish when first blooming.
Primrose Evening Cutleaf

Primrose Evening Cutleaf

The flowers have four notched petals and are about 3/4" across at their widest.
Primrose Evening Cutleaf

Close-up of the flower. Note the cross rising up from the center.
Primrose Evening Cutleaf

Cutleaf evening primroses start out as a rosette form.
Primrose Evening Cutleaf

Stems begin growing out of the center. Note the alternating leaves.
Primrose Evening Cutleaf

The plant will eventually get thick with leaves and stems.
Primrose Evening Cutleaf

The fruit of cutler evening primrose grow as thin, slightly over 1" long, flat-sided rectangles.
Primrose Evening Cutleaf

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.
Cutleaf Evening PrimroseTX

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
Cutleaf Evening Primrose NA

Cutleaf evening primroses seem to move in and quickly cover many bare, disturbed areas. You'll find them pretty much anywhere Mother Nature thinks the ground needs healing...and that includes the monoculture yards. These plants start out as a circles of spiky leaves but soon put out assorted stems and begin mounding up. The mix of pink flowers and yellow ones are another prime indicator that you've found cutler evening primroses. The flowers appear in greater numbers at night since this is mainly a moth-pollinated plant. The leaves have a pinnate vein structure and start as a rosette around a taproot, once stems appear their leaves will be alternating.

This weed is usually used as a potherb, meaning the leaves, flowers, and fruit are usually boiled or steamed rather than eaten raw. Think of it as a substitute for cooked spinach. The flavor is a bit peppery, but this zing fades as cooking times extend. The young root was peeled then boiled in 2-3 changes of water to mellow out its flavor.

Medicinally, it isn't held in the same esteem as its cousin evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) but its likely that cutleaf evening primrose seeds have the same gamma-linolenic acid content that is responsible for use medicinally to help with PMS and menopausal issues.

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