Primula Vulgaris, The Primrose

Primrose flower (primula vulgaris)The Primrose doesn’t really need to be in an identification guide. Everybody recognises this flower. In this article I will assume that you can recognise a Primrose and tell you some interesting things about this flower instead.

Briefly: The Primrose Flower has five petals they are usually a pastel yellow leading to a darker yellow centre. (pink flowers do occur in this species but other colours are probably garden escapees)

The flowers are borne singly on a short hairy stem.

Primrose stem (primula vulgaris)The Leaves form a basal rosette, they are wrinkled with an irregular toothed edge.

Primrose flower (primula vulgaris)

Now this is where it gets interesting. Primroses are hermaphrodite, each flower has male and female parts but the flower has a sexual preference. Either the male or female parts take the lead and you do get different male and female plants.

The female plant bears “pin” flowers. All of the flowers on this plant will be female or pins. A pin flower contains both a style (F) and stamens (M) but the style is much longer than the stamens and is the part presented to the world.

Primrose pin flower (primula vulgaris) Primrose pin flower (primula vulgaris)   Primrose pin flower (primula vulgaris)   Primrose flower (primula vulgaris)If we look inside of a pin flower we can see the relatively small stamens below the style.

Primrose pin flower (primula vulgaris)The male flower is called a “thrumb” and this time we can see that the stamens are much longer and the style is reduced to sit at the base of the flower.

Primrose thrum flower (primula vulgaris)A Primrose thrumb flower.

Primrose thrumb flower (primula vulgaris) Primrose thrumb flower (primula vulgaris)   Primrose thrumb flower (primula vulgaris)   Primrose thrumb flower (primula vulgaris)

Despite containing both male and female parts fertilisation can only take place between a pin and a thrumb. Pin to pin or thrumb to thrumb doesn’t work.

The Primrose is one of our earliest flowers, the name comes from the Latin Prima Rosa meaning first rose (although it is not related to the rose). They started appearing here in the middle of February and lasted until almost the end of May.

Primroses like semi shade and they grow well in woodland and on wooded tracks. They can easily fall prey to mice, who seem to like the pastel bit of the petal but turn their noses up at the  dark centre.

Primrose flower (primula vulgaris)

Primrose flower (primula vulgaris)They also fall prey to me. Both the flowers and the leaves are edible.

I use the leaves to add a bit of crunch to a salad. They are not the tastiest leaves about at this time of year but they add nice texture.

Primrose leaves (primula vulgaris)I use the flowers for decoration.

Primrose leaves (primula vulgaris)

The primrose is very closely related to the Cowslip, Primula veris and the two plants can hybridize.


Cowslip (Primula veris)


Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Ericales

Family: Primulaceae

Genus: Primula

Species: Primula vulgaris

Primrose flower (Primula vulgaris)

Primrose flower (Primula vulgaris)

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Wild flowers from The Forest of Dean

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