All photos by Jim Mason
2004 Kansas Wildflower of the Year
ne of the most startling wildflower displays on the prairie occurs when this species
blooms in late spring. Packing vivid yellow blossoms over five inches across,
Evening Primrose really turns heads! It can commonly be seen on road cuts and other
rough ground, which makes it even more noticeable since there is no competing vegetation
to block the view.
||This species is a perennial with a fairly short bloom
period. Its flowers may be seen in May and June, with the peak being mid-May in
Kansas. The individual flowers are only around for a day or so, which is common for
most members of the evening primrose family. They first open in the evening and
wither the following day.
Pollination of this species is done by large hawkmoths and
possibly also by hummingbirds. The flowers of the evening primrose family typically
have a large X-shaped pistil (red arrow), which projects beyond the stamens. This
distinctive feature is very easily seen with a close look at any blossom.
|The leaves of this plant are narrow and lance-shaped.
They are up to 6 inches long. Most varieties have a silvery sheen due to the many
short hairs on the surface of the leaf.
Evening Primrose grows in a low sprawling
manner, unlike some of its cousins which may get 5 feet tall.
Evening Primrose is a complex of four similar subspecies which occur
in the southern half of the Great Plains. These are:
Fremont's Evening Primrose (subsp. fremontii) - found in chalk badlands
and rocky hillsides in northwest and north central Kansas and four counties in
Nebraska. Formerly considered a separate species, it has smaller flowers and shorter
wings on its seed pods than the other three.
Hoary Evening Primrose (subsp. incana) - found from southwestern Kansas
to the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles. Hoary Evening Primrose is densely covered with
Oklahoma Evening Primrose (subsp. oklahomensis) - found from the Gyp
Hills of south central Kansas south into Texas. This subspecies is the only one that
is completely hairless.
Missouri Evening Primrose (subsp. macrocarpa) - widely distributed from
central Texas through Oklahoma and eastern Kansas to southeast Nebraska. It is also
found in limestone glades in the Ozark Mountain region of Missouri and Arkansas.
This has the largest flowers and seed pods of any of the four.
|The seed pod of this species is very distinctive. It
has four papery "wings" on it that allow the pod to be blown about by the wind,
helping to scatter the seeds. This is the seed pod of Missouri Evening Primrose.
||After their astonishing show of yellow, the flower petals
have one last touch of beauty to offer. They turn a deep salmon color before they
shrivel and drop off the plant.
Over 800 species of wildflowers are known from Kansas
alone. The peak display of wildflowers on the prairie occurs in June. A lesser
peak occurs in late summer when the late summer and early fall bloomers overlap.
Evening Primrose is a herald of the summer wildflower season on the prairie. When
you see it blooming, you know the show is just beginning!
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- This page was spun by Jim Mason -
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Great Plains Nature Center
6232 E. 29th Street North
Wichita, KS 67220-2200