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April 2010 cover image 12 Hooked!

Flora Fact : Butter nose

Evening primroses can bloom in the morning, too.

By Sheryl Smith-Rodgers

Growing up, we called them buttercups, those pastel pink wildflowers with powdery yellow centers that bloom through the summer. Pranksters like my father could never resist offering a whiff of one to an unsuspecting kid, who would end up with a pollen-tipped nose.

Folks call Oenothera speciosa by other names, too: showy evening primrose, pink evening primrose, pink ladies and pink buttercups. Years later, my mother — after checking a bona fide field guide — straightened out the matter and proclaimed them thereafter as evening primroses.

Name-calling aside, this abundant perennial — both beloved and disdained by gardeners — commonly grows throughout most of Texas in meadows, prairies, pastures and plains.

Displays of evening primroses alongside state roads were likely sown by the Texas Department of Transportation as part of its wildflower program. Drought-tolerant and hardy, they spread easily via seeds and rhizomes, often forming dense colonies that can become difficult to curb.

Talk about quirky, too. Oenothera speciosa bears teacup-shaped flowers that vary in color from dark pink to white. What’s more, some open in the evening, while others don’t. Typically, northern populations abide by their name and bloom late in the day, one time only. Morning bloomers last only one day as well.

Factoid: Ever seen a pink moth? The primrose moth (Schinia florida) — named for its beautiful bright pink color that resembles its larval host plant, evening primrose — has been reported in Texas.

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