Prim­roses and other prim­u­las

Landscape (UK) - - Our Landscape -

The com­mon prim­rose, Prim­ula vul­garis, is one of 500 prim­ula species thriv­ing through­out the north­ern hemi­sphere. It can also be found in South Amer­ica. Half of all these species are found in the Hi­malayas. Cowslips, polyan­thus and prim­roses are all prim­u­las but not all prim­u­las are prim­roses. The flow­er­ing struc­ture of prim­roses is dif­fer­ent to that of cowslips and oxlips. Prim­roses have flow­ers that are pro­duced singly on thin stalks (pedicels) di­rectly from the cen­tre of the plant. Cowslips and oxlips have a thick cen­tral stem which lifts the flow­ers above the ground. From the top of this, there are many flow­ers held on shorter pedicels. Cul­ti­vated, coloured prim­roses have the same habit as the wild prim­roses while polyan­thus have a habit like cowslips and oxlips. Be­cause these plants have been hy­bridised for cen­turies, plants oc­ca­sion­ally pro­duce flow­ers of both types. Deeper in hue and smaller in size, the cowslip, P. veris, is a plant of drier and sun­nier sites. The flow­ers are held above the neat rosettes of leaves. The bell-shaped blooms are car­ried in lop-sided bunches. The oxlip, P. ela­tior, has pale yel­low flow­ers in sim­i­lar bunches. Where cowslips and prim­roses grow to­gether, they hy­bridise and the false oxlip, P. x polyan­tha, may be pro­duced. Su­per­fi­cially sim­i­lar to the true oxlip, it can be dis­tin­guished by the flow­ers be­ing held all around the trusses.

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