South Dakota Native Plant Research
Onagraceae : Oenothera caespitosa

Onagraceae : Oenothera caespitosa


Download Seed: The reddish brown seeds of the gumbo lily are 2.5-4 mm long. (62 KB)

Download Seedling: Two month old seedling of gumbo lily. (112 KB)

Download Leaves (997 KB)

Download Flowering: The flower initially blooms white and then turns pink to purple. (1008 KB)

Download Flower (634 KB)

Download Fruiting: The 4- valved woody capsule of evening primrose contains many small seeds and will turn brown when the seeds ripen. (724 KB)

Family Name


Common Name

Gumbo evening primrose, Gumbo lily

Native American Name

Lakota: čhaŋȟlóǧaŋ hú saŋsáŋ


Oenothera caespitosa is a perennial, acaulescent, mound forming herb from a branching caudex. Mature plants are typically 15-25 cm high and up to ~60 cm wide, with lateral roots giving rise to new plants. The leaf blades are oblanceolate to nearly linear, 3-21 cm long, 1-5 cm wide, with a winged petiole that is often as long as the blade. The margins vary greatly from almost entire to pinnately lobed to having irregular teeth that are rounded to sharp. The leaf blades, veins and margins can be variously covered with hairs or with hairs lacking. The flowers are solitary in the leaf axils, open near sunset and have a sweet scent. The floral tube is 3-8 cm long, slender and flared toward the end, often reddish in color. The sepals are 2.5-3.5 cm long lanceolate with pointed tips. The white petals are heart-shaped, 2.5-5 cm long, changing to pink after pollination. The 8 stamens are unequal in length and about 2/3 the length of the petals. The style is about as long as the petals and has a 4-lobed stigma. The fruit is a hard, lumpy, elongated capsule, 2-5 cm long with a constricted end. Gumbo lily blooms from May into August on dry, rocky prairies, hillsides and open woodlands in western and central South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Gumbo evening primrose is a lovely addition to a rock garden or other native planting of short species. It is easy to get started from seed and seedlings are readily transplanted. Their sweet scent makes the garden unforgettable at night. They attract hawk and sphinx moths at night and some native bees in the morning. They do best on poor, dry clay soils. In richer, moister soils they tend to grow rapidly and then die.

Horticulture Notes

Seed collection: Collect seeds when the pods turn brown the seed become a dark brown to black.

Germination: Fall sowing will provide high germination rates. Depending on the seed source, a cold moist stratification of 60-120 days is needed before spring planting.

Vegetative propagation: Plants will produce new plants from lateral shoots that will transplant in the spring.

Soil: Well drained rocky clays to sand. Tolerant of some alkali.

Light: Full sun but will tolerate light shade.

Water: Medium dry to dry once seedlings are established.

Onagraceae : Oenothera caespitosa