Information on Primrose

Common Name: Primrose
Scientific Name: Primula vulgaris
Irish Name: SabhaircĂ­n
Family Group: Primulaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period

Click for list of all flowering by month
Primrose is not easily confused with other wild plants on this web site.

The Latin name translates as 'First flower' and indeed this little plant even shows its head before the end of the old year in sheltered places (see below).  Our little 'Sabhaircin' generally flowers from April to May when its pale yellow 2-3cm flowers with their deep yellow centres decorate grassy banks, woodlands and roadsides. Each flower has its own leafless stalk. Primrose has quite large, crinkled leaves – up to 12cm long – which taper gradually into the stalk. Like Primula veris, the Primrose has two types of flower – thrum-eyed and pin-eyed - each type on a separate plant. Thrum-eyed means that the stigma is shorter than the anthers, pin-eyed means the stigma is longer than the anthers and projects like a little pin. This means that cross-fertilisation is far more likely to take place. Visiting insects have the pollen transferred onto different parts of their bodies depending on which type of flower they visit and then they in turn transfer that pollen to the other type of flower.  Have a close look the next time you come across one of these plants and all will become clear.  This plant is a native and belongs to the family Primulaceae.

I first identified this plant in Glendalough, Co Wicklow in the 1950's and photographed the very pale-flowered plant in Gibletstown, Co Wexford just before Christmas, 2007, a little earlier than I would have expected. The pink variety I found on a roadside, well away from houses, also in Co Wexford. I wondered whether this was a garden escape or whether nature produced a pink variety. Then I read in Colgan's 'Flora of CountyDublin' (1904) :

'A pure white variety was found sparingly at Portrane 1896, a salmon-pink variety at Whitestown, Rush 1903 and a red variety at the same station in 1904.' 

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

'Guard the house with a string of primroses on the first three days of May.  The fairies are said not to be able to pass over or under this string.'

From the National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin. NFC S.455:237. From Co Kerry.