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(Primula veris )

Cowslip © Laurie Campbell

Cowslip © Laurie Campbell

"In a cowslip’s bell I lie"

- William Shakespeare, "The Tempest"


One of the best known spring flowers, cowslips are both an adornment of pastures and banks and a nostalgic symbol of the once flower-rich pastures of rural England. You can adopt cowslip as part of the Plantlife ‘Adopt a Flower scheme. 

Where it grows

Open woods, grassy places and meadows.

Best time to see

April to May.

Cultural info

  • County Flower of Northamptonshire, Worcestershire and Surrey.
  • In the Language of Flowers it symbolises comeliness and winning grace

How is it doing?

Suffered a decline between 1930 and 1980, mainly due to the loss of the grasslands where it grows.

3 things you may not know

  • Cowslip allegedly means cowpat! Our ancestors noted that they tended to flower where a cow had ‘slupped'.
  • In addition to The Tempest, the ‘freckled cowslip' also appears in Shakespeare's Henry V as a sign of a well-managed pasture.
  • Its scent is not dissimilar to that of an apricot.

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