Now Blooming: Sundrops

In western Pennsylvania wildflower season comes in waves.

The first crest is in April when the woodland flowers bloom.  There’s a pause in May then the next wave, the field flowers, begins in late June and lasts through September.  I’ll be blogging more about flowers during this long, beautiful wave. 

Last Sunday I encountered beauty that stopped me in my tracks.  While hiking in the Laurel Highlands I came upon a sunny meadow filled with daisies and bright yellow flowers on tall stems.  Sundrops!

Sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa) flowers are 1″ to 2″ across, clustered at the top of their stems.  Each has a prominent cross-shaped stigma which the drone fly (who resembles a honeybee) is covering above, but he gives you a sense of scale.  These flowers are pretty big.

The stems are 1′ to 3′ tall and reddish, as shown below in two photos of a smaller look-alike, Oenothera perennis.

Sundrops open and close every day. They’re the daytime cousin of the common evening primrose whose flowers are very similar but the two are easy to tell apart.  Sundrops open in bright sunlight and close at night.  Evening primroses open at twilight.

It would be cool to do time lapse photography on a field containing both plants.  The flowers of the two species would wink open and shut like fireflies.

(sundrop with drone fly by Marcy Cunkelman, sundrops on stems by Dianne Machesney)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *