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.
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