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Scots Primrose

Primula scotica

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Primulaceae (Primrose)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
20 centimetres tall
Gardens, grassland, heathland, parks, rocky places, sand dunes, sea cliffs, seaside.

Purple, 5 petals
Purple flowers with yellow centres. The petals are rounded and blunt. The flowers look similar to those of Bird's-eye Primrose (Primula farinosa) but are a deeper purple and have a rich yellow centre. The flowers appear from May to June and then reappear from July to August (having two flowering periods per year).
The fruit is a capsule which splits open, releasing its seeds.
A biennial flower with a basal rosette and no stalk leaves. The basal leaves are untoothed, oblong to oval and crinkly. They are broadest in their middles.
Other Names:
Scottish Primrose.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Primula scotica, commonly known as Scottish primrose, is a species of flowering plant in the family Primulaceae. It is native to Scotland and is found in the coastal cliffs and grasslands of the western and northern islands of Scotland. The plant is known for its bright yellow, five-petaled flowers that bloom in the spring and its rosette of leaves that grow close to the ground. The leaves are usually hairy, slightly wrinkled and have a slightly bluish-green appearance. This plant is a small, perennial herb that can grow to around 20 cm tall. The Scottish primrose is considered as a hardy plant and it can tolerate a wide range of soils and conditions, it can tolerate sun or shade, and it prefers well-drained soil. It is also considered as a symbol of Scotland, and it is often used as an ornamental plant in gardens and parks.


Scots Primrose, or Primula scotica, is a small, delicate plant that is native to the northernmost parts of the United Kingdom. It is a perennial species that belongs to the primrose family, Primulaceae, and it is often considered to be one of the most iconic and beloved plants of Scotland.

The Scots Primrose typically grows to a height of 10-15 cm and is known for its vibrant, bright purple flowers that bloom in early spring. The flowers themselves are small, measuring only about 1 cm across, but they are abundant, often covering the entire plant in a carpet of purple. The leaves of the plant are green and slightly hairy, and they form a rosette at the base of the stem.

One of the most interesting features of the Scots Primrose is its unique distribution. The plant is found only in a few isolated locations in Scotland, including the Orkney and Shetland Islands, and a few areas in the Highlands. It is considered to be one of the rarest plants in the United Kingdom, and it is protected by law.

The Scots Primrose is well-adapted to the harsh conditions of its native habitat. It is often found growing in rocky, windswept areas, and it is able to withstand the cold, wet winters of northern Scotland. The plant is also able to reproduce clonally, meaning that it can produce new plants from its roots, which allows it to spread and thrive in its native environment.

Despite its rarity, the Scots Primrose has captured the imagination of botanists and nature lovers alike. It has been the subject of numerous scientific studies, and it has even inspired poetry and folklore. In Scottish folklore, the plant is said to have magical properties, and it is associated with the faeries and other supernatural beings that are said to inhabit the Scottish landscape.

Unfortunately, the Scots Primrose is facing a number of threats. Habitat loss, climate change, and the encroachment of non-native plant species are all contributing to the decline of this iconic species. However, efforts are underway to protect and conserve the plant, including the creation of protected areas and the development of conservation plans.

The Scots Primrose has a long history in Scottish culture and folklore. In traditional Scottish medicine, the plant was used to treat a variety of ailments, including headaches, coughs, and stomach complaints. It was also believed to have magical properties, and it was used in various rituals and spells.

In addition to its cultural significance, the Scots Primrose has also attracted the attention of scientists and botanists. The plant's unique distribution and adaptation to its environment have made it an important subject of study, and researchers are working to understand the plant's genetics, ecology, and evolution.

One interesting aspect of the Scots Primrose is its relationship with pollinators. The plant is primarily pollinated by small, short-tongued bees, which are attracted to the plant's bright purple flowers. However, recent studies have shown that the plant may also be pollinated by hoverflies and other insects, indicating that the plant's pollination strategy may be more flexible than previously thought.

Despite its beauty and cultural significance, the Scots Primrose remains a threatened species. Habitat loss, climate change, and invasive species are all major threats to the plant's survival. Conservation efforts are focused on protecting the plant's remaining habitats, controlling invasive species, and promoting public awareness and education about the plant's importance.

In recent years, there has been growing interest in the conservation of the Scots Primrose, both in Scotland and internationally. The plant has become a symbol of Scotland's unique natural heritage, and efforts to protect and conserve the species have been recognized and supported by a range of organizations and individuals.

One interesting fact about the Scots Primrose is that it was first discovered by the botanist James Robertson, who found the plant growing on the cliffs of Hoy in the Orkney Islands in 1828. The plant was subsequently named Primula scotica in honor of its Scottish origin.

Since its discovery, the Scots Primrose has been the subject of numerous scientific studies, including research into its genetics, ecology, and conservation status. The plant's genetic diversity has been found to be relatively low, which may be a consequence of its isolated distribution and clonal reproduction.

In addition to its scientific and cultural significance, the Scots Primrose is also an important indicator of the health of Scotland's natural environment. The plant is particularly sensitive to changes in its habitat, and its presence or absence can be used to gauge the health of the surrounding ecosystem.

Conservation efforts for the Scots Primrose are ongoing, and involve a range of strategies, including habitat restoration, seed banking, and public education. One particularly successful project has been the creation of the Primula scotica Recovery Plan, which aims to protect and conserve the plant through a range of measures, including the establishment of new protected areas, the removal of invasive species, and the promotion of sustainable land management practices.

One of the challenges in conserving the Scots Primrose is the plant's limited distribution and small population size. The species is currently classified as "Critically Endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and it is listed under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

To address this issue, scientists and conservationists have been working to develop new methods for propagating the plant, including tissue culture and micropropagation. These techniques have shown promise in producing large numbers of genetically identical plants, which can be used to supplement existing populations and establish new ones.

In addition to propagation, habitat restoration is another important strategy for conserving the Scots Primrose. This involves restoring or improving the plant's natural habitat, including rocky cliffs, grasslands, and heathlands. This can be achieved through a range of techniques, such as removing invasive species, controlling grazing, and planting native vegetation.

Finally, public education and awareness are also important for the conservation of the Scots Primrose. By raising awareness of the plant's importance and the threats it faces, conservationists can build support for conservation efforts and encourage sustainable land management practices.

In conclusion, the Scots Primrose is a remarkable and important plant that represents a unique and important part of Scotland's natural heritage. Despite the challenges it faces, there is hope that through conservation efforts and public awareness, this beautiful and iconic species can be preserved for future generations to enjoy. By working together to protect and conserve the Scots Primrose, we can help to ensure a sustainable future for Scotland's natural environment.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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