Skip to Content

What is a Dune Primrose (Oenothera deltoides)

What is a Dune Primrose

What is a Dune Primrose


Oenothera deltoides (O. deltoides) is a species of evening primrose known by several common names, including birdcage evening primrose, basket evening primrose, lion in a cage, and devil’s lantern. This flower is native to the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico, where it grows in sandy habitats from desert to beach. There are five subspecies., with the Antioch Dunes Evening Primrose (ssp. howellii), is a federally listed endangered species known from a few sandy spots in the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge just inland from the San Francisco Bay Area in California. The Oenothera caespitosa – known as the Tufted Evening Primrose, Desert Eventing Primrose, Rock-Rose Primrose, and the Fragrant Evening Primrose – is very similar, but lacks stems and has slightly larger flowers.


  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Clade: Tracheophytes
  • Clade: Angiosperms
  • Clade: Eudicots
  • Clade: Rosids
  • Order: Myrtales
  • Family: Onagraceae
  • Genus: Oenothera
  • Species: O. deltoides

Size and Body Description

The plant is grayish with basal, deltoid leaves. The large white flowers turn pinkish as they mature. When the plants die, the stems curl upward and form the “birdcage” for which the common name is derived.


What is a Dune Primrose Dune Primrose – Oenothera deltoides Community: Dune Sand Barren Blooms: April to May Elevation: 1050 to 2550 ft (350 to 850 m) Type of soil: Sands Source of Water: Surface, trapped in sands Height: 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm.), but straggling stems may extend along ground up to 20 inches (50 cm.) Pollination: Insects, especially Sphinx moth; wind Adaptation for Survival: Shallow, widespread root system, wide leaves. Very fragrant white flower opens at night when moth is active. Comments: Stem curls up and inward as they dry, forming the curious “bird cage” or “basket” from last season’s plant so often found in association with the new one.

Resources Used

Below is a transcription of the above sign found at the Valley of Fire Visitor Center.  

What is a Dune Primrose