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Primula veris

Primula veris

Primula veris in flower
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Ericales
Family: Primulaceae
Genus: Primula
Species: P. veris
Binomial name
Primula veris

Primula veris (Cowslip; syn. Primula officinalis Hill) is a flowering plant in the genus Primula. The species is native throughout most of temperate Europe and Asia, and although absent from more northerly areas including much of northwest Scotland, it reappears in northernmost Sutherland and Orkney[1].

It is a low growing herbaceous perennial plant with a rosette of leaves 5-15 cm long and 2-6 cm broad. The deep yellow flowers are produced in the spring between April and May; they are in clusters of 10-30 together on a single stem 5-20 cm tall, each flower 9-15 mm broad. Red-flowered plants do occur, very rarely.

  It is frequently found on more open ground than Primula vulgaris (Primrose) including open fields, meadows, and coastal dunes and clifftops. It is often included in wild-flower seed mixes used to landscape motorway banks and similar civil engineering earth-works where it may be seen in dense stands.

It may be confused with the closely related Primula elatior (Oxlip) which has a similar general appearance although the Oxlip has larger, pale yellow flowers more like a Primrose, and a corolla tube without folds.

Cowslip is a favourite food of wild rabbits.  


Folklore and herbalism

It is used medicinally as a diuretic, an expectorant, and an antispasmodic, as well as for the treatment of headaches, whooping cough, tremors, and other conditions. However it can have irritant effects in people who are allergic to it[2]

Cowslips were made into wine, and also to flavour conventional wines.

An ancient name for the plant is "paigle" (origin unknown). Another name, herb Peter, derives from the tale of St. Peter dropping the keys to the Gates of Heaven, with the cowslip springing from the spot.

In the nineteenth century, cowslips were used as a garland on maypoles.

The Cowslip is the county flower of four counties in England, these are Essex, Northamptonshire, Surrey, and Worcestershire.


Cowslip leaves have been traditionally used in Spanish cooking as a salad green. Uses in English cookery includes using the flowers to flavour country wine and vinegars; sugared to be a sweet or eaten as part of a composed salad while the juice of the cowslip is used to prepare tansy for frying. The close cousin of the cowslip, the primrose (P. vulgaris), has often been confused with the cowslip and its uses in cuisine are similar with the addition of its flowers being used as a colouring agent in desserts.


  • Davidson, Alan. Oxford Companion to Food (1999), "Cowslip". p. 221 ISBN 0-19-211579-0
  1. ^ Preston, Pearman & Dines (2002) New Atlas of the British Flora. Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ Howard, Michael. Traditional Herbal Remedies (Century, 1987); pp128-9.

External references

  • Charles Darwin on Primula hybrids, including cowslips and oxlips Accessed 8 May 2007
  • Image of yellow and red-flowered cowslips growing on a farm in Gloucestershire, England Accessed 8 May 2007
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Primula_veris". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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