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The species vary in size from small alpine plants 10 centimeters tall, such as O. acaulis from Chile, to vigorous lowland species growing to 3 meters, such as O. stubbei from Mexico. The leaves form a basal rosette at ground level and spiral up to the flowering stems. The blades are dentate or deeply lobed (pinnatifid). The flowers of many species open in the evening, hence the name "evening primrose". They may open in under a minute. Most species have yellow flowers, but some have white, purple, pink, or red. Most native desert species are white. Oenothera caespitosa, a species of western North America, produces white flowers that turn pink with age.
Oenothera flowers are pollinated by insects, such as moths and bees. Like many other members of the Onagraceae, however, the pollen grains are loosely held together by viscin threads, so only insects that are morphologically specialized to gather this pollen can effectively pollinate the flowers. Bees with typical scopa cannot hold it. Also, the flowers open at a time when most bee species are inactive, so the bees which visit Oenothera are generally vespertine temporal specialists: bees that forage in the evening. The seeds ripen from late summer to fall. Based on observations of evening primroses (Oenothera drummondii), a study discovered that within minutes of sensing the sound waves of nearby bee wings through flower petals, the concentration of the sugar in the plant's nectar was increased by an average of 20 percent. Experiments were also conducted on flowers with the petals removed. No change in nectar production was noted, indicating that it is indeed the flowers that have the job of the ears.
The first plants to arrive in Europe reached Padua from Virginia in 1614 and were described by the English botanist John Goodyer in 1621. Some species are now also naturalized in parts of Europe and Asia, and can be grown as far north as 65°N in Finland. The UK National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens, based at Wisley, maintains an Oenothera collection as part of its National Collections scheme. Oenothera (evening primrose; family Onagraceae) A genus of flowering plants that have spirally arranged leaves and 4-petalled, large, usually yellow to orange flowers in a leafy spike. The seeds, unlike those of some other genera in the family, are not plumed. The unusual chromosome morphology and genetic mechanism of Oenothera have been the subject of much study by cytogeneticists. There are about 80 species, native to N. America, but some are much cultivated in gardens for the flowers, both as species and as hybrids, and are now well naturalized in Europe and elsewhere. (Source: www.encyclopedia.com)