Oenothera laciniata (Cut-leaved Evening Primrose)

Plant Info
Also known as: Ragged Evening Primrose
Family:Onagraceae (Evening Primrose)
Life cycle:annual, biennial, short-lived perennial
Habitat:sun; dry disturbed sandy soil; prairies, roadsides, waste areas
Bloom season:May - September
Plant height:6 to 24 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals

[photo of flower] Flowers are single in the mid and upper leaf axils along branching stems, about 1 inch across with 4 yellow heart-shaped petals and 8 yellow stamens surrounding a style with a cross-shaped stigma in the center. The stamens and style are typically shorter than the petals.

[photo of calyx, hypanthium and ovary] The 4 sepals behind the flower are up to ~½ inch (5 to 15 mm) long and bend back away from the flower as it develops, pairs typically connected along one edge (connivent) until the flower opens, are yellowish-green and variously hairy, sometimes with glandular hairs. The floral tube, connecting the ovary nestled in the leaf axil and base of the flower, is ½ to 1 3/8 inches (12 to 35 mm) long and resembles a flower stalk. The flowers open in the evening and close up during the heat of the day.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of upper stem leaf] Leaves are basal and alternate, elliptic to oblong to somewhat spatula-shaped in outline, the basal and lower stem leaves up to 6 inches (4 to 15 cm) long, up to about 1 3/8 inch (1 to 3.5 cm) wide, short-stalked, becoming smaller and stalkless as they ascend the stem. Edges are shallowly to deeply lobed, sometimes lobed at the base and more toothed at the tip. The upper surface is hairless to sparsely hairy, the lower more densely hairy. Stems are single, unbranched to many-branched, erect to ascending to sprawling, and variously hairy.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is a slender, tubular capsule nestled in the leaf axil, ¾ to 2 inches (2 to 5 cm) long, straight to slightly curved, with four small conspicuously flared lobes at the tip.

[photo of seeds] Inside are many light brown seeds, .9 to 1.8 mm long, pitted all across the surface.


There are currently only two herbarium records of Cut-leaved Evening Primrose in Minnesota, the first in 1945, the second in 1991, and both on sandy dunes in the northern Twin Cities metro area, though it was more recently spotted in a nursery production field in Sherburne County. The DNR considers it native to the state even though our two historical populations seem a bit disjunct from the next closest neighbors in Wisconsin and those populations have not persisted; it is not listed as rare but the DNR does track it. A native annual or short-lived perennial that spreads by reseeding, it is considered something of a weedy species in parts of its range and an agricultural pest in parts of California. Traveling through the southern US we spotted it on weedy roadsides in several states. While the flowers resemble those of other Evening Primrose species, the lobed leaves and somewhat ragged growth habit separate it from the rest.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County and in Alabama. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in his garden.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Martina - Palmer Township
on: 2023-08-26 08:50:31

I believe I found this plant growing in a production field.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-08-30 11:41:38

Martina, the images on iNat do appear to be this species, but whether it is a natural or introduced population is the question.

Posted by: Maia - Washington Country
on: 2024-05-01 18:51:56

I have a photo of what I think is this plant that I took last year in Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park. It's taken me this long to realize what it might be. I can provide a link to the photo.

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