New Mexico Wildflowers: Evening Primrose Family



Flowers are arranged alphabetically by genus, then by species. If you encounter a slide show, you can hover your cursor over the images to control them.

Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium)


Evening Primrose, white varieties (Oenothera spp.)

 New Mexico has multiple species of white to very pale evening primroses. Despite the name, they bloom in the morning. I've always found them on fairly small, low plants, that except for the flowers can get lost in the grass.


Evening Primrose, yellow varieties (Oenothera and Calylophus spp.)


Like New Mexico's white evening primroses, the yellows ones come in multiple species. Mostly I call them "yellow evening primroses" and leave it at that. But let's look at a few photos, starting with the "tall" yellow evening primroses shown immediately above. I like to call them Hooker's evening primrose (Oenothera elata), for the simple reason that the first time I saw one, someone used that name. But then, I also thought that they were named after an army officer who became General Joseph Hooker of Civil War fame (and the reason prostitutes are called hookers). In fact they're named after a director of the Kew Gardens in London. Be careful with hand-me-down ID information, including mine! But on to another tentative species ID...



believe that the photos immediately above show Hartweg's sundrops (Calylophus hartwegii), also called yellow evening primrose. The flowers start out yellow but as they die, they turn reddish-orange. This is an example of a "short" yellow evening primrose,  which hugs the ground. Such "short" yellow evening primrose plants occur in many species, both in Calylophus and Oenothera. I rather suspect that the botanists don't have the genera and species entirely straightened out, so I don't feel bad about my own confusion. For what it's worth, Littlefield and Burns also divide their yellow evening primroses into two entries, one short (Calylophus hartwegii, 4–16 inches tall) and one tall (oenothera elata ssp. hirsutissima, 24–48 inches tall). 


Before leaving this topic, I'll throw in a few photos of yellow evening primroses in an Albuquerque garden. These are a cultivar, obviously, but I have no idea of with species.


Velvetweed, Linda Tarde (Oenothera curtiflora)

Look for hairy stems and alternate leaves that are velvety to the touch. The flowers are like scarlet gaura flowers (below) but smaller. Given a chance, this plant will grow to head height. As one of my photos shows, the seed capsules have narrow bases and are four-sided farther out. 


The brown bug you see in a couple of images is a stilt bug. You can see other stilt bugs on Linda Tarde on this page.


Scarlet Gaura (Oenothera suffrutescens)

These small flowers can start out white or light pink but during the day they grow darker pink. As they shrivel, they turn red. Each flower has four petals. Rather than being spaced evenly, the petals are at 8:00, 10:30, 1:30, and 4:00. Relative to a traditional clock dial, that is. Until recently this plant was known as Gaura coccinea and you're likely to find it listed under that name in wildflower guides.