Although it is only February early primroses are popping up in lots of corners of the Physic Garden. Primula vulgaris is a species of flowering plant in the family Primulaceae native to western and southern Europe. Its common name is primrose or occasionally English or common primrose to distinguish it from other Primula species.
It is one of the earliest spring flowers in much of Europe. Its name derives from the medieval Latin prima rosa, meaning ‘first rose’ although it is not closely related to the rose family. The delicately scented flowers which are typically pale yellow (though white or pink forms are often seen in nature) are bourne singly on short stems arising from a basal rosette of leaves. The flowers are hermaphrodite but heterostylus. Individual plants bear either pin (with the capita of the style prominent) or thrum flowers (with the stamens prominent). Fertilisation can only take place between pin and thrum flowers.
Over collection and theft from the wild has reduced natural displays of primroses and picking of the flowers and removal of the plants is illegal in many countries including the UK.
Both flowers and leaves are edible, flavour ranging between mild lettuce and more bitter salad greens. The leaves can also be used for tea, and the young flowers can be made into primrose wine. However, please don’t be tempted to crop ours for that purpose!