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Primrose - Primula vulgaris

Foraging for Primrose - Primula vulgaris

Main features

  • Grows in woodland, on grassy banks, in lawns, and near hedgerows

  • Five-petalled lemon or white flowers with a deep yellow centre

  • Tight rosette of rich-green crinkled leaves

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Primrose - Primula vulgaris

Edible plant - novice when in flower, advanced when not in flower

Other common names: Common Primrose, Wild Primrose, English Primrose


Scientific name meaning: Primula is derived from the Latin Primus, which means “first”. Vulgaris means vulgar or common

Season Primrose's foliage can be found almost all year round, with young shoots arriving in late winter/early spring. Flowering is in late winter/early spring

Habitat - where will I find it? Primrose can be found in woodland, on lawns, on grassy banks, and near hedgerows. It is distributed throughout Europe, Asia and Africa

Description - what does it look like? Primrose forms a tight rosette of crinkled rich green long leaves at its base. From this rosette many flower stalks appear. The flowers are pale lemon or white, have five petals and a deep yellow centre. Hybrids of cultivated varieties with different coloured petals do occur, but these are best avoided

Possible lookalikes When not in flower, Primrose can look remarkably similar to Foxgloves (Digitalis), Comfrey (Symphytum) or Poison Primrose (Primula obconica). All of these are poisonous or carcinogenic. Therefore, it is best for novice foragers to only pick when primrose is in flower

Use as a food The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. The flowers can be eaten raw in a salad or made into a cordial if collected early enough. Frosted Primrose flowers are popular for use in cake decorating

Use in herbal medicine Primrose contains salicylates, which offer some analgesic and blood thinning properties. It has also been used as an expectorate, to treat nervous headaches and as a tonic for the respiratory and nervous systems.

If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner

Hazards Primrose contains contains salycilates, so it should be avoided by pregnant women, those with a blood thinning disorder or taking blood thinning medications, and anybody who is allergic to paracetamol. Some people are also known to be allergic to Primrose

Importance to other species Provides a food source for pollinators, slugs, mice, birds, rabbits and deer

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!

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