Primroses: a sign of warmer days to come

Primula vulgaris, the common Primrose… it’s such a breath of fresh air to see them when very little else is out, except for some Daffodils and some Snow Drops. I feel lucky to have a few Primrose clumps peeking through the grass in the garden this time of year. 

The scientific name Primula comes from latin ‘primus’ alludes to the fact that Primrose is one the first wildflowers to appear in the spring. Native to Ireland and widespread throughout Europe, northwest Africa, and parts of southwest Asia, the common Primrose belongs to the primulacae family of plants, which features Cowslips and the cute little Scarlet Pimpernel.

Primroses favour heavy clay soils, and damp, shady habitats, and as a result are more abundant in broadleaf woodlands and beneath hedgerows. They can carpet large grassy areas in parks and motorway embarkments, and often grow on slopes and meadows.


Primrose is a perennial plant and as such grows back in the same location every year. Forming a central rosette of wrinkled-looking leaves, they strangely remind me of green cabbage leaves because of their crinkly appearance! The flowers typically hold 5 smallish petals (2 to 4cm in diameter) with pale yellow on the outer part and a deeper yellow or orange in the centre, although there are species with white, pink or purple outer petals. The common Primrose flower opens flat and grows singly on a long stalk, and that’s how you differentiate it from the Cowslip, which produces an umbel of flowers on the one stalk, with its concave-shaped flowers.

The flowers of the Primrose are edible and visited by Butterflies, Beetles and Bumblebees. The leaves of the Primrose can be put into salads and soups, although the flavour can be quite strong. You can also make wine from the young Primrose flowers.

Have you ever tasted Primrose leaves, or made wine with the petals? I’d be interested to know your experience. Is it tasty, is it bitter, is it delicious? Do you have primrose growing in your garden, or a memory attached to some? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. 

Illustration by Lizzie Harper

📷 by JP Hamon and Alamy

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