primrose, common name for the genus Primula of the Primulaceae, a family of low perennial herbs with species found on all continents, most frequently in north temperate regions. Among the better-known members of the family are the primroses (genus Primula ), cyclamens (genus Cyclamen ), pimpernels (genus Anagallis ), and loosestrifes (chiefly genus Lysimachia ). Species of all these genera are cultivated as rock-garden, border, and pot plants. The primrose, a common and favored wildflower of England, has often been celebrated in poetry. A common yellow species ( P. veris ) is called cowslip in England. Several primroses are indigenous to North America. The American cowslip, often called shooting star, is a separate genus ( Dodocatheon ); it is an Eastern wildflower. The evening primrose is not a true primrose. Tuberous-rooted cyclamens are native chiefly to the European Alps; C. indicum is a common florists' pot plant in the United States. The scarlet pimpernel, or poorman's-weatherglass ( A. arvensis ), is native to Eurasia but has been naturalized in North America; its flowers close on the approach of bad weather. Loosestrifes are easily cultivated flowers that thrive under moist conditions; some are creeping species, e.g., the moneywort, or creeping Jenny, of E North America. Several unrelated plants are also called loosestrife. Primroses are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Primulales.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.