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Manitoba Museum

Evening Primrose (Onagraceae)

White Evening Primrose

Oenothera nuttallii Sweet

The flowers of this perennial prairie plant tend to be short-lived and have an unpleasant odour. They bloom in late in the day, opening entirely in just one minute, and close again by noon the next day. Their white colour, scent, and bloom time makes them attractive to night-flying summer insects, such as moths, that act as pollinators.

Flower Colour:

  • White

Flowering Season:

  • Summer

Flowering Months:

  • August
  • July
  • June

Canadian Rarity Status:

Not rare.

Physical Appearance:

This plant’s branching stems have whitish peeling bark, and grow 30 – 100 cm tall from a thick woody base. Its alternate leaves are long and narrow and hairy underneath. Single flowers, up to 4.5 cm across, occur at the upper leaf axils, drooping before blooming. Each one has four white, egg-shaped petals that turn pink with age. The yellow anthers and cross-shaped stigma stand out significantly. Fruits are hairy, cylinder-shaped capsules that release dark brown, egg-shaped seeds.

Similar Species:

Gumbo Evening Primrose (Oenothera cespitosa Nutt.)

Gardening Notes:

Seeds and/or plants may be available from greenhouses and seed supply companies specializing in native plants.

Canadian Distribution:

  • Alberta
  • Manitoba
  • Ontario
  • Saskatchewan

Prairie Types:

  • Fescue Prairie
  • Mixed Grass Prairie


  • Open Woodlands
  • Prairies
  • Roadsides
  • Valleys

Moisture Conditions:

  • Dry

Light Preference:

  • Full Sun

Soil Preference:

  • Gravel
  • Sand
White Evening Primrose