Sunday, July 15, 2012

Gumbo Evening Primrose at Grasslands Park

Gumbo Evening Primrose   © SB
Gumbo Evening Primrose — a strange name for a lovely (and mysterious) white and pink prairie wildflower.

The first time I saw Gumbo Evening Primrose, last summer at Saskatchewan's Grasslands National Park, it was late evening and the spent flowers had slackened to pale pink, then brighter rose.

They looked nothing like the picture of Oenothera caespitosa (the botanical name for Gumbo Evening Primrose) in my widflower books! 

In the books, the blooms were white and brilliant  but, search my little corner of the park as I did, I found no fresh white flowers that led me to make any connection to those illustrations. 

Nor, in my books, did I find anything that looked like my faded pink petals. *

Of course, I was looking for these prairie wildflowers at the wrong time of day... 

A line of Gumbo Evening Primrose plants, with pink flowers
The same line of Gumbo Evening Primrose plants,
with white flowers. (Pink = afternoon; white = morning) 
This summer, I tried a different strategy, and at 6 a.m., not long after sunrise on a late June day in Grasslands National Park, I found and photographed the Gumbo Evening Primrose shown here.

And as for the name, Gumbo refers to the kind of clay soil they grow in; Primrose, because that's their family, and Evening, just to be confusing... (The fresh flowers appear at the beginning, not  at the end of day.) 

Brilliant crisp white flowers, with rosy spent blooms © SB
The extreme contrast between new and old
Gumbo Evening Primrose flowers  
© SB 

I later found Vance/Jowsey, often mentioned here, and yes, that excellent guide to wildflowers of the prairies and northern plains clearly shows both the new and old flowers, in white and pink. 

And I was not alone in my bafflement; this week, I received an e-mail from a photographer who, like me, had found them late in the day  and found little that resembled their pictures in their wildflower guides. 

Prairie Wildflower: Gumbo Evening Primrose (Oenothera caespitosa)
Location: Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Date: 6:15 a.m., June 24, 2012. (Distant field shots, afternoon of June 21, 2012, and morning of June 24, 2012) 


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