Primula /ˈprɪmjʊlə/[1] is a genus of mainly herbaceous[2] flowering plants in the family Primulaceae. They include the familiar wildflower of banks and verges, the primrose (P. vulgaris). Other common species are P. auricula (auricula), P. veris (cowslip) and P. elatior (oxlip). These species and many others are valued for their ornamental flowers. They have been extensively cultivated and hybridised - in the case of the primrose, for many hundreds of years. Primula are native to the temperate northern hemisphere, south into tropical mountains in Ethiopia, Indonesia and New Guinea, and in temperate southern South America. Almost half of the known species are from the Himalayas.[2]

Prolećno cveće 3.JPG
Primula vulgaris
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Primulaceae
Subfamily: Primuloideae
Genus: Primula
Type species
Primula veris L.
  • Aleuritia (Duby) Opiz
  • Aretia Link
  • Auganthus Link
  • Auricula Hill
  • Auricula-ursi Ség.
  • Cankrienia de Vriese
  • Carolinella Hemsl.
  • × Cortoprimula Zeman
  • Cortusa L.
  • Dodecatheon L.
  • Evotrochis Raf.
  • Exinia Raf.
  • Kablikia Opiz
  • Meadia Mill.
  • Oscaria Lilja
  • Paralysis Hill
  • Primulidium Spach
  • Sredinskya (Stein) Fed.

Primula has about 500 species in traditional treatments, and more if certain related genera are included within its circumscription.[3]


Primula is a complex and varied genus, with a range of habitats from alpine slopes to boggy meadows. Plants bloom mostly during the spring, with flowers often appearing in spherical umbels on stout stems arising from basal rosettes of leaves; their flowers can be purple, yellow, red, pink, blue, or white. Some species show a white mealy bloom (farina) on various parts of the plant.[2] Many species are adapted to alpine climates.


Primula L. was known at least as early as the mediaeval herbalists, although first formally described as a genus by Linnaeus in 1753,[4] and later in 1754 in his Flora Anglica. Linnaeus described seven species of Primula. One of its earliest scientific treatments was that of Charles Darwin study of heterostyly in 1877 (The different forms of flowers on plants of the same species). Since then, heterostyly (and homostyly) have remained important considerations in the taxonomic classification of Primula.[5][6] Primula is a member of the Primulaceae family. The most complete treatment of the family, with nearly 1000 species arranged into 22 genera, was by Pax and Knuth in 1905.[7]


Primula is the largest genus in the family Primulaceae, within which it is placed in the subfamily Primuloideae, being the nominative genus.[8]

The position of Primula within the family and its relationship to other genera is shown in this cladogram:

  Primulaceae s.l.  











The genus Dodecatheon originated from within Primula, so some authorities include the 14 species of Dodecatheon in Primula.[9]

Sections of genus PrimulaEdit

The classification of the genus Primula has been investigated by botanists for over a century. As the genus is both large and diverse (with about 430–500 species), botanists have organized the species in various sub-generic groups. The most common is division into a series of thirty sections.[10][11] Some of these sections (e.g. Vernales, Auricula) contain many species; others contain only one.

  • Amethystina
  • Auricula
  • Bullatae
  • Candelabra
  • Capitatae
  • Carolinella
  • Cortusoides
  • Cuneifolia
  • Denticulata
  • Dryadifolia
  • Farinosae
  • Floribundae
  • Grandis
  • Malacoidea
  • Malvacea
  • Minutissimae
  • Muscaroides
  • Nivales
  • Obconica
  • Parryi
  • Petiolares
  • Pinnatae
  • Pycnoloba
  • Reinii
  • Rotundifolia
  • Sikkimensis
  • Sinenses
  • Soldanelloideae
  • Souliei
  • Vernales

Selected speciesEdit

Species include:[12][13][14]

Primula algida
Primula auriantaca
Primula beesiana
Primula capitata ssp. mooreana
Primula clarkei
Primula elatior (oxlip)
Primula florindae
Primula glutinosa
Primula helodoxa
Primula japonica
Primula marginata
Primula megaseifolia
Primula rosea
Primula veris
Primula × pubescens


The word primula is the Latin feminine diminutive of primus, meaning first (prime), applied to flowers that are among the first to open in spring.[28]


Primulas are used as a food plant by the Duke of Burgundy butterfly.[29]

Distribution and habitatEdit

Although there are over 400 species of Primula, about 75% are found in the eastern Himalayan mountain chain and western China (Yunnan Province), constituting a centre of diversity. Other centres of diversity are a western Asian centre (Caucasus, European mountain ranges from the Pyrenees, through the Alps to the Carpathian Mountains), mountains of East Asia and those of western North America. Primula is found in mountainous or higher latitude zones of North America, Europe, and Asia, with extension into South America, Africa (mountains of Ethiopia) and tropical Asia (islands of Java and Sumatra).[5][8] About 25 species occur in North America (represented in five sections).[30]

Primula is found in the humid and moderate climate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, predominantly in the forest belt, plain meadows, Alpine lawns, and nival and meadow tundras.[8]

Garden hybrids and cultivarsEdit

Primula species have been extensively cultivated and hybridised, mainly derived from P. elatior, P. juliae, P. veris and P. vulgaris. Polyanthus (often called P. polyantha) is one such group of plants, which has produced a large variety of strains in all colours, usually grown as annuals or biennials and available as seeds or young plants.[31]

Another huge range of cultivars, known as auriculas, are derived from crosses between P. auricula and P. hirsuta (among others). Specialist nurseries and auricula societies[32] support the growing and showing of these choice strains.

AGM cultivarsEdit

The following hybrid varieties and cultivars have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:-[33]

  • 'Broadwell Milkmaid' (auri)[34]
  • Charisma series (prim)[35]
  • 'Clarence Elliott' (auri)[36]
  • Crescendo Series (poly)
    • 'Crescendo Blue Shades'[37]
    • 'Crescendo Bright Red'[38]
    • 'Crescendo Pink and Rose Shades'[39]
  • Danova Series (prim)[40]
  • 'Francisca' (poly)[42]
  • 'Guinevere' (poly)[43]
  • Primula × loiseleurii 'Aire Mist' (auri)[44]
  • Primula × pubescens (auri)[45]
  • 'Tony' (auri)[46]
  • 'Wanda' (prim)[47]


  • Primula × kewensis = P. floribunda × P. verticillata (Kew primrose)[27]
  • Primula × polyantha = P. veris × P. vulgaris (false oxlip, polyanthus primula)[48]
  • Primula × pubescens = P. hirsuta × P. auricula


  1. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book. 1995. 606–607.
  2. ^ a b c RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 978-1405332965.
  3. ^ Primula. Flora of North America.
  4. ^ Linnaeus 1753.
  5. ^ a b Mast et al 2001.
  6. ^ Gilmartin 2015.
  7. ^ Martins et al 2003.
  8. ^ a b c Kovtonyuk & Goncharov 2009.
  9. ^ Weakley, A. S. (2008). "Flora of the Carolinas, Virginia, and Georgia, and Surrounding Areas". UNC Herbarium, North Carolina Botanical Garden, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  10. ^ Ingwersen, Will (1986) [1978]. Ingwersen's Manual of Alpine Plants. Portland: Timber Press. ISBN 978-0-88192-026-0.
  11. ^ Green, Roy (1986) [1976]. Asiatic Primulas. Woking, Surrey, UK: Alpine Garden Society.
  12. ^ Primula: List of Records. Flora of China.
  13. ^ Primula: List of Records. Flora of North America.
  14. ^ GRIN Species Records of Primula. Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN).
  15. ^ Basak, S. K. and G. G. Maiti. 2000. Primula arunachalensis sp. nov. (Primulaceae) from the Eastern Himalaya. Acta Phytotax. Geobot. 51(1) 11-15.
  16. ^ a b Ming, H. C. and G. Y. Ying. (2003). Two new species of Primula (Primulaceae) from China. Novon 13 196-199.
  17. ^ Xun, G. and F. Rhui-cheng. (2003). Primula calyptrata, a new species in section Carolinella (Primulaceae) from Yunnan, China. Novon 13 193-95.
  18. ^ "The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  19. ^ a b Hu, C. M. and G. Hao. (2011). New and noteworthy species of Primula (Primulaceae) from China. Edinburgh Journal of Botany 68(2) 297.
  20. ^ Li, R. and C. M. Hu. (2009). Primula lihengiana (Primulaceae), a new species from Yunnan, China. Annales Botanici Fennici 46(2) 130-32
  21. ^ Rankin, David W. H. (2012). "726. Primula Melanantha". Curtis's Botanical Magazine. 29: 18–33. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8748.2012.01768.x.
  22. ^ Rix, Martyn (2005). "529. Primula Moupinensis. Primulaceae". Curtis's Botanical Magazine. 22 (2): 119–123. doi:10.1111/j.1355-4905.2005.00477.x.
  23. ^ "The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  24. ^ "The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  25. ^ "The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  26. ^ Chi-Ming, H. (1994). New taxa and combinations in Chinese Primulaceae. Novon 4(2) 103-105.
  27. ^ a b Primula verticillata (yellow primrose). Archived 2012-09-05 at the Wayback Machine Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  28. ^ Coombes, Allen J. (2012). The A to Z of Plant Names. USA: Timber Press. pp. 312. ISBN 9781604691962.
  29. ^ "UK Butterflies - Larval Foodplants".
  30. ^ Kelso 1991.
  31. ^ Reader's Digest Encyclopedia of Garden Plants & Flowers, 2nd edition. United Kingdom: Reader's Digest Association. 1978.
  32. ^ "Welcome to The National Auricula & Primula Society: Midland & West Section". National Auricula Society. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  33. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 81. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  34. ^ "Primula 'Broadwell Milkmaid'". RHS. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  35. ^ "Primula 'Charisma Series'". RHS. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  36. ^ "Primula 'Clarence Elliott'". RHS. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  37. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Primula 'Crescendo Blue Shades'". Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  38. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Primula 'Crescendo Bright Red'". Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  39. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Primula 'Crescendo Pink and Rose Shades'". Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  40. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Primula Danova Series". Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  41. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Primula 'Danova Rose'". Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  42. ^ "Primula 'Francisca'". RHS. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  43. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Primula 'Guinevere'". Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  44. ^ "Primula × loiseleurii 'Aire Mist'". RHS. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  45. ^ "Primula × pubescens". RHS. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  46. ^ "Primula 'Tony'". RHS. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  47. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Primula 'Wanda'". Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  48. ^ "Primula × polyantha". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 12 December 2017.



External linksEdit