Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Primrose

I spotted a primrose in the Pocket Park today. It brings the total number of vascular plants recorded there to 123.

In a situation like a disused railway station - which is what the pocket park is - there is always a chance that a plant has escaped from cultivation, but it looks perfectly natural here.


Primrose Primula vulgaris Byfield Pocket Park
18 April, 2013 
In my childhood everyone was familiar with the primrose but, in an increasingly urbanised environment this seems no longer to be the case. Nevertheless the species is in no danger and its flowers should be enjoyed by generations to come.

Pretty though the flowers are - and lauded by so many poets (inevitably including John Clare) - it was once more valued for other reasons. In the early days of medicine it was widely used as a remedy for gout, "muscular rheumatism" and as a vermifuge, while the roots are said to be "a strong and safe emetic" (Clapham, Tutin and Warburg, 'Flora of the British Isles' 2nd edition, p.631). 

Linnaeus called it Primula acaulis. At first this may appear odd, for "acaulis" means "stemless", and yet it is correct, for the leaves are not borne on a stem but form a rosette at ground level. The flower is born on a scape or pedicel, and botanists are careful not to use the word stem in this situation. For reasons which I haven't investigated, Linnaeus' specific name is no longer used and today the Primrose is Primula vulgaris. 



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