Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Evening Primrose

This Evening Primrose self seeds itself in my garden and at the allotment and I love it. In the evening the flowers have an almost luminescent quality about them. Botanists introduced it to Europe in 1614, when they brought it across from North America, where it is regarded as a weed.

But I never tire of watching the flowers unfold. On a warm summer evening, with a little patience, you can watch the flower slowly open. The first hint of something happening is when the outer green sepals start to open out, and they suddenly "ping" back against the stem. Then the petals themselves unfurl. The whole process takes only a minute or two and is well worth the wait. The flowers have a scent that is attractive to night flying moths who pollinate them. By the morning the flower has shrivelled, and in the evening more flowers open ready for the night ahead.

The American Indians have used this plant for medicinal and culinary purposes for hundreds of years, using infusions of the plant for skin complaints. The whole plant, roots, stems, leaves and even the flower buds, may be eaten. The boiled roots apparently taste like sweet parsnips, but I have not tried them.

Medicinally, the oil extract from the plant is attracting increasing attention and although not fully tested, may be useful for the treatment, for example, of pre menstrual tension, ectopic eczema, alcohol poisoning and the relief of hangovers, acne, brittle nails, and even guarding against arterial disease. This has been put down to the omega-6 essential fatty acid, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which it contains.

It seems that the Evening Primrose has not yet yielded up all its secrets and who knows, we may see fields being grown commercially in years to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment