Primroses (All About)
Primroses are a real harbinger of spring. They grow in hedges, ditches, on banks and along the edges of woodlands. Their pale yellow flowers are very familiar and they have a very cool fragrant perfume. They appear in south-facing banks to begin with (as early as March). The leaves emerge first — a rosette of green crinkly leaves which taper towards the base and are whitish on their undersides. The flowers then begin to appear, each on its own separate stalk. There are five pale petals, each one heart-shaped.Read moreRead less
The flowers contain the male parts — five stamens which are small stalks topped with anthers containing pollen — and the female part which is the ovary topped by a single stalk called a style. Pollen from another flower must reach this style to fertilise the ovary and this pollen is carried by insects. To avoid the possibility of self-fertilisation, the stamens and the style are of different lengths. This is of course the case with most species of flowers and indeed the female style is generally longer than the stamens.
However, if you examine the flowers of primroses you will discover something
unusual. In about half of the flowers the female style is longer than the
stamens as is normal for flowers and you can see it when you look at the
circular area at the centre of the petals. This is called a “pin” flower. In
the other half, however, the stamens are longer than the style and when you
look in you will see the tops of the five stamens rather than the single style.
This is called a “thrum” flower.
Primroses were very important long ago to people who kept cows. Butter making from the cream of the milk began in May and on May eve they would rub the flowers of the primroses on the udders of the cattle to make sure that they had enough milk for the butter making. In other areas primroses were thrown on the roof of the house before dawn on May Day to protect the butter from the fairies.
Things to do
1. Go out looking for primroses early in the year and note the date when the first primrose is seen. With climate change, primroses are flowering earlier each year so keeping a record of the first primrose is a way of monitoring this for your area.
2. Pupils could count the number of petals and draw the flower and leaves in their workbooks on return from the trip. They could look for pin and thrum flowers.