Variations on a Theme: Primrose, Cowslip or Oxlip?

Comparison between primroses and cowslips
Primroses (centre) and cowslips (top right)

The third in my series of easily confused plants features some of the UK’s favourite spring wild flowers with a long heritage of lore.

While our native species of primula are well-loved, they are not as familiar and useful as they once were. Farmers are too busy to rub primroses on their cows’ udders on May Day to encourage milk. Most people who grow primroses near their doorway have forgotten the idea that they encourage faeries to bless the household. People no longer make tisty tosties from cowslip flower heads tied into balls, stems inwards, and hang them from sticks in their dozens to tell fortunes or wave in celebration. Few people have recently tasted cowslip wine. Cowslips are not common enough, and like all UK wild flowers, they are now protected.

But these wild flowers have such a dainty, delicate look, no matter how vigorously they grow, that they are rarely dismissed as weeds. Continue reading “Variations on a Theme: Primrose, Cowslip or Oxlip?”