Scientific Name: Onagraceae Onagroideae Onagreae Oenethera sp.
Common Names: Evening Primrose, sundrops, sun cups
perennial, biennial reseeder (depending on species)
Growth Habit: Central stalks with radiating branches.
Height: 1-10 feet (10 feet!) depending on species
Permaculture Designation: herbaceous layer, medicinal, flowering beneficial, food
The most common warning, in fact it’s near the top on most of the pages I’ve read, is that evening primrose is hard to control once established. One poster labelled it a “garden thug” as it takes over where it’s planted. The other common refrain is that evening primrose “thrives on neglect.” Fairly drought tolerant and needs light to sandy soil that drains well. Easy to grow, self-propagates, with medicinal and food uses, pretty flowers and insect attractors. Sounds like a great permaculture plant.
There are many, many species of Oenethera, so some additional research may be needed on each species as to edibility, invasiveness, etc… Most of the sources I’ve seen claim the entire plant is edible – the leaves as greens, the flowers as garnishes, and the roots as root vegetables. The medicinal property comes from the oil of the seeds. Pressing your own seeds can be challenging, as the seeds are quite small, and you will need a great volume of seeds to make the effort worth it. The seeds can be prepared culinarily (used similar to poppy seeds) and the medicinal quality made available by lightly grinding the seeds to prevent them from simply passing through the digestive system whole.
Sow seeds in late spring. Seeds require light for germination, so don’t cover them. Just press them into the soil surface. Most people will probably look for information on controlling evening primrose as it so successfully reseeds. Dead head the flowers before they have a chance to set seed – will require some vigilance!
The entire plant is edible, including the roots. Leaves are pungent and hairy, and may need some companion greens in the pot to make them palatable. Cook the roots like carrots or potatoes. Seeds are found in the dried pods from the dried flower heads on the plant. Use as baking/cooking additive just like poppy seeds. Grind the seeds to make the medicinal properties more available.
The essential oil is touted as a hormonal regulator for conditions like PMS, menopause, and even enlarged prostrates. Also said to cure “laziness”. I need some.
Links to sites consulted:
The best information on uses came from thesacredearth.com site.