Primrose (Primula vulgaris) Identification Guide

Primrose / Spring / Edible 

Primrose is one of the first plants to produce edible wild flowers in spring, our favourite thing is to use them as a garnish or to crystalise them for future use.

Common names

Primrose, Common Primrose, Wild Primrose, English Primrose

Botanical name

Primula vulgaris

Meaning of botanical names

Primula comes from the Latin feminine Primus, in modern English “first”. Vulgaris means vulgar or common

Known hazards

Contains salicylates, so should be avoided by pregnant women and those on blood thinners. Some people are allergic to this species.

Could be confused with

Foxgloves (Digitalis), Comfrey (Symphytum), or Poison Primrose (Primula obconica) before flowering. Therefore, it is best for novice foragers to only pick when the plant is in flower

Food plant of

Slugs, mice, birds, rabbits, and deer

Range and distribution

Europe, Asia, and Africa


Woodland, lawns, grassy banks, hedgerows

Physical characteristics


A tight rosette of crinkled rich green long leaves, from which many flower stalks appear.


The flowers have five petals, and are pale lemon or white, with a deep yellow centre. Hybrids of cultivated varieties with different coloured petals do occur, but these are best avoided.

Folklore, tall tales, and not so folklore

A Greek myth describes how the gods turned the youth Paralisos into primroses after he died of a broken heart

Edible use

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


The salicylates offer some analgesic and blood-thinning properties. Has also been used as an expectorate, to treat nervous headaches and as a tonic for the respiratory and nervous systems. If you have a medical complaint, please visit your doctor

Identification is key!

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