Beach Evening Primrose

The third “beach” flower in this series, beach evening primrose (Camissoniopsis cheiranthifolia), was photographed in May at Dry Lagoon Beach in Humboldt Lagoon State Park (Humboldt County CA) and Endert’s Beach south of Crescent City Ca (Del Norte County).

This native perennial has a deep taproot and a low-growing form to anchor it against the wind and shifting sand. Beach evening primroses have long stems arising from a central crown. The prostrate stems often form mats.

Beach evening primrose stems and leaves are heavily covered with dense, pale hairs. The green stems turn reddish with age. Silvery grey-green leaves occur in a basal rosette and along the stems.The cauline (stem) leaves often become progressively shorter and wider toward the stem tip. Near the tip the leaves often lack a petiole (stalk) and clasp the stem.

Flowers are produced in leaf axils near the tip of the stem. Beach evening primrose petals are bright yellow and fade to an orange-red as they age. Each fan-shaped petal may have one or more red dots at the base. The flower has four bent-back sepals, often joined in pairs. The eight stamens are of unequal length and are shorter than the pistil. The long style is capped with a spherical stigma. The ovary is inferior.

Beach evening primrose fruits are slim, four-sided, pubescent capsules that coil one or more times. At maturity the capsule splits open at the end allowing the obovoid, pitted, dark brown seeds to be dispersed by gravity or animals.

A member of the Evening Primrose Family (Onagraceae), beach evening primrose inhabits open dunes and sandy soils along the coast from Central Oregon through Southern California.

Two synonyms for Camissoniopsis cheiranthifolia are Camissonia cheiranthifolia and Oenothera cheiranthifolia. Beach suncup is another colloquial name.

The generic name, Camissoniopsis, means “having the appearance of Camissonia“. The genus Camissonia honors Ludolf Karl Adelbert Chamisso ( 1781 – 1838), a French-born German poet and botanist. In Greek “opsis” is appearance. The species designation means “having leaves like Cheiranthus“, a genus of wallflowers. Cheiranthus comes from Greek (cheir/hand and anthos/flower) and may refer to the custom of carrying those flowers in hand as a bouquet. Confused?

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1 Response to Beach Evening Primrose

  1. Andrew Gardner says:

    beach evening primrose have established themselves along the coastal strip near Cottesloe Beach, Western Australia. This area is quite close to Fremantle Shipping Port so escaped seeds from an international ship are a likely source. I love them, even though they have a weed classification here. I have cultivated some from wild stock and now have a glorious display on my northern and western boundaries. The more sun, the more flower. I have not seen them in any other garden so could be a first.


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