Despite it’s name, the evening primrose (oenothera biennis) is not directly related to the primrose, it’s part of the willowherb family. I’ve noticed these striking flowers on my early morning walks, their gentle scent permeates the air. Tall green spikes and large, yellow rosettes that are randomly scattered on the escarpments down to the beach. Their blooms are short lived, nocturnal flowers that attract night-time moths for pollination.
These plants seem to love our coastal soil, loamy, rough ground and they have successfully spread all along the cliff edges. They don’t seem at all difficult to cultivate naturally in this area. However, it isn’t an easy plant to harvest for pharmaceutical use, no pesticides can be used in production making the plants harder to maintain and control naturally.
The use of evening primrose in alternative health remedies dates back centuries. Native Americans, specifically the Cherokee, used it as a poultice to heal wounds. The seeds produce an oil rich in Gamma-linolenic acids that may help increase prostaglandins and ease symptoms of menopause, multiple sclerosis and arthritis. Most parts of the plant are edible, leaves can be eaten prior to flowering in early spring as a bitter salad.
Having taken it in capsule form, I never knew what it looked like or that it grew in such abundance down on the south coast of England. Now I know a little more, I may have to try and cultivate some seeds of my own, more for the wonderful evening scent and than any medicinal use.