Missouri Primrose

Missouri Primrose

by Joshua Heston

Ozark sundrops, some call them. Missouri primrose is their most commonly known name. But the primrose, with its massive yellow blossoms and trailing, tuberous stalk and root systems, is not a primrose at all.

The Oenothera family of perennial flowering plants is all its own, native to the Americas, diverse in its history.

There are many species which thrive throughout North, Central and South America, but the Missouri Primrose’s range is limited to a wide crescent stretching from South Texas into Canada.

The trailing plants thrive in rocky, open slopes, making it an ideal Ozark glade species.

The thin soil and hot summer afternoons prove the Oenothera missouriensis’ hardiness. In fact, the species will often colonize in patches of dirt and rock where little else will grow.

Still, they are an unusual plant, often overlooked. Amidst the grass, the cedars, rocks and invasive mimosa, the primrose’s at-times four-inch wide lemon yellow blossoms open at dawn while the morning dew blankets the petals. Stigma, heavy with bright yellow pollen, droop in the breeze.

By mid-day, the blossoms have faded, leaving behind toad-wort-like sepals.

Oenothera missouriensis. Missouri Primrose. Ozark Sundrop. One of the most beautiful glade plants to grace the late-spring and early summer Ozark hills.

Missouri Primrose (Oenothera missouriensis)

Size: 6—20 inches tall; flower 2—4 inches wide. What to look for: flowers yellow, showy, borne singly on stalks above leaves; leaves lance-shaped to straplike Habitat: dry prairies, rocky open slopes. In bloom: May—September (evening).

— page 396, Wernett, Susan J., et al. North American Wildlife. The Reader's Digest Association, Inc., 1986.

All photo credits: J. Heston • SOTO © Archive. 05/25/10

Plate 1.

Missouri Primrose

Plate 2.

Missouri Primrose

Plate 3.

Missouri Primrose

Plate 4.

Missouri Primrose

Plate 5.

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