evening primrose, common name for the Onagraceae, a family of plants of worldwide distribution, most species of which grow as herbs in the temperate New World, and specifically for members of the genus Oenothera. Species of Oenothera, Epilobium, and Godetia, among others, are native to America; some are cultivated. Evening primroses (species of Oenothera and some other similar species) range from North America to Patagonia. Most are yellow, evening-flowering annuals or biennials. The common evening primrose ( O. biennis ) is naturalized in the Old World, where the roots are sometimes used for food. The hybrid O. lamarckiana was used by Hugo de Vries in formulating his mutation theory of heredity. Godetia, abundant in California, includes farewell-to-spring, or summer's-darling ( G. amoena ). The branching, bushy great willow herb ( E. angustifolium ) is a widespread fireweed and a good bee plant. Most species of the genus Fuchsia are tropical American shrubs cultivated elsewhere as ornamentals for their pendulous, brilliant red to purple and white flowers. Most garden fuchsias are hybrids. The evening primrose family is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Myrtales.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.