Oenothera perennis (Small Sundrops)

Plant Info
Also known as: Little Evening-primrose, Perennial Evening-primrose
Family:Onagraceae (Evening Primrose)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist to average sandy or gravelly soil; fields, meadows, open woods
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:9 to 24 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
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 Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Blossoms are single in the upper leaf axils, only a few opening at a time in ascending progression up the stem. The yellow flowers are 1/3 to ¾ inch across with 4 round petals, notched at the tip, and several veins radiating from the base. 8 yellow stamens surround a 4-parted style in the center. The green to reddish calyx tube behind the flower resembles a stalk and is about as long as the ovary nestled in the leaf axil. The raceme-like cluster nods to one side, becoming erect where each flower blooms. The leaf-like bracts at the base of each flower are narrower and more sharply tapered at the tips than leaves lower on the stem. Flowers open during the day and close at night.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are 1 to 2¼ inches long and up to ¾ inch wide, generally lance-elliptic, toothless, blunt at the tip, tapered to a narrow base, and stalkless. Both surfaces are covered with short appressed hairs. Stems are green to reddish, variously covered in very short hairs, usually erect and unbranched or with some branching on mature plants.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is an upright, club shaped capsule up to ½ inch long with four prominent, reddish, length-wise ridges and covered in short, glandular hairs.


Small Sundrops is easy to identify from the nodding tip of the stem and club-shaped fruit. While it can be found on drier sites, it is a decidedly eastern species requiring adequate annual moisture to persist. It is rarely encountered in great numbers, typically a scattered plant here or there within its habitat. While not as showy as the more garden popular Southern Sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa), there is little reason it shouldn't persist well in a backyard native garden.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County.


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

Posted by: Sarah - Crow Wing County
on: 2016-06-30 14:21:56

Have been studying native plants on our lake shore/swamp/woodland acreage in Crow Wing County and have photographed nearly 100 different flowers. This week a Small Sundrop plant appeared. Two blooms have opened up and two more are ready. Have no idea how this plant found its way into this wildflower garden near the cabin. The soil is sandy and rocky and we have had a lot of moisture this spring. This is a wonderful new addition to our land.

Posted by: Laura W - Waseca County
on: 2017-06-11 18:57:29

These flowers were original to the farmstead, collected by a relative when the farmstead was broken up, and returned to me for my gardens when we built on the old farm site. You don't mention how they propagate, but mine spread from the roots, and have become quite numerous. Not a problem to keep under control by just breaking off the invasive stems at the root.

Posted by: Elizabeth R - Goodhue county
on: 2017-07-16 11:56:55

I have one plant in my prairie restoration near Welch

Posted by: Brenda Pittman - Sheridan neighborhood, NE Minneapolis
on: 2018-06-24 18:52:30

Found several plants blooming in duaghter’s front flowerbed.

Posted by: Jasmin F - Steele County
on: 2020-06-14 12:03:28

Came up in our backyard this year. Lots of bunches coming up in our perennial garden- beautiful!

Posted by: luciearl - lake shore
on: 2020-07-22 15:48:52

Two plants growing on my beach this summer. I've been waiting for it to bloom to find if native or not. Glad I didn't pull it!

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