Cowslip

Primula veris

About

The Cowslip is a cousin of the Primrose and is also an early spring flower. As such, it is closely associated with much English folklore and tradition, including adorning garlands for May Day and being strewn on church paths for weddings. Formerly a common plant of traditional meadows, ancient woodlands and hedgerows, it was picked in profusion across the country for many celebrations. But the loss of these habitats to the advancement of agriculture caused a serious decline in Cowslip populations and now fields coloured bright yellow with the nodding heads of Cowslips a rare sight.

How to identify

Cowslips have rosettes of green, crinkly, tongue-like leaves low to the ground. Tube-like, egg-yolk yellow flowers are clustered together at the ends of tall, green stems.

Where to find it

Widespread in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Habitats

When to find it

  • April
  • May

How can people help

Once awash with wildflowers and alive with insects, our hay meadows have been drained, damaged and destroyed as a result of agricultural intensification; more than 95% of our wildflower meadows have been lost in recent years. Without care, those meadows that are left can quickly become overgrown, shading out delicate wildflowers such as Cowslips. The Wildlife Trusts look after many meadow habitats using traditional methods, such as hay-cutting, reseeding and grazing, for the benefit of local wildlife. We are also working closely with farmers and landowners to promote wildlife-friendly practices in these areas. You can help too: volunteer for your local Wildlife Trust and you could be involved in everything from stockwatching to surveying meadow flowers.

Species information

Common name
Cowslip
Latin name
Primula veris
Category
Wildflowers
Statistics
Height: up to 25cm
Conservation status
Common.