The evening primrose flower belongs to the herbaceous genus oenothera, which is a member of the onagraceae family. These plants – which may be either perennial, annual or biennial – are native to regions of both North and South America. Evening primroses can grow to heights of 5 feet, but the flower heads themselves rarely grow larger than 3 inches in diameter. The foliage of this plant is rough and occasionally hair-covered, lanceolate, toothy and fragrant. The actual blossoms burst forth from auxiliary branches and are made up of four vaguely heart-shapes petals, four reflexed sepals, at least eight stamens, and an X-shaped stigma. Although yellow blooms are the most commonly seen, these plants may also come in shades of red, pink, magenta, purple and white.
Popping up in pharmacy aisles and beauty counters, the evening primrose flower is probably best known for its medicinal and cosmetic uses. This knowledge, however, is nothing new. Traditionally, this plant was used as a flavorful food staple by Native Americans. The roots – which have a distinct, nut-like flavor – were often boiled, pickled and eaten fresh; as were the leaves and flower buds. It was not long, though, before it was discovered that a poultice made from the whole plant could be used to heal skin abrasions and bruises, as well as treat breathing ailments such as asthma. Although this bloom has had a long-standing place in folk medicine, modern scientists have conducted an extensive amount of research on this plant, and the results are very promising. One study that was conducted at the School of Medicine at the University of Malaga during the late 1990s concluded that the evening primrose flower could very well help protect against cardiovascular diseases. In this study, two rabbits were put on an average diet, while two others were put on an atherogenic diet. One rabbit from either group was given foods that had been enriched with evening primrose. The results indicated that the subject who was placed on the flower-treated atherogenic diet experienced a massive decrease in blood-platelet clumping, while the one that was not had a marked increase.
As a symbol, the evening primrose flower represents youth, eternal love and memory. As a gift, these blossoms are given for a number of reasons. For example, they may be given during an anniversary as a reminder of the couple’s young love; it may be presented to the parents of a newborn child; or simply as an affectionate token to a well-loved companion.