Thursday, May 3, 2012

Primslips and Cowroses

The old railway line between Romaldkirk and Cotherstone in Teesdale is now a very attractive public footpath (with a convenient pub at either end) and this year there are spectacular displays of ....


...primroses Primula vulgaris in the woodland that has developed on the embankments and ....
























... cowslips Primula veris  in the grass in the pastures and more open areas, and wherever these two habitats coincide there are ....


























...... magnificent specimens of false oxlips, the natural hybrid between the two species. Every wild flower guide describes primroses and cowslips as separate, distinct species but no one told the plants, or the insects that cross pollinate them in spring. The hybrids tend to have the large individual flowers of primroses mounted on the tall stems of cowslips and are often very floriferous, displaying hybrid vigour. False oxlips have been grown in gardens since at least Elizabethan times and are the ancestors of the garden polyanthus, that has also received an injection of floral pigment genes from another European primrose species at some point in its history. Almost every false oxlip plant is subtly distinct because they can also backcross to either parent, so every conceivable intermediate form is there in the population. Along this railway line enbankment there's also just one ....



































..... pink-flowered primrose, that must be the result of a cross with a cultivated Primula species. The bumblebee - slightly to the right and above centre in the picture - was busy disseminating this coloured variant's genes amongst the surronding plants in the population.

5 comments:

  1. What a lovely post Phil. I didn't know about the cross pollination.

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  2. wonderful to see these hybrids, I have a pink primrose in my garden and wondered how,now I know!

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  3. Hi toffeeapple, these were the best specimens of false oxlips hat I've seen for a long time ...

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  4. Hi Claire, I think there's a lot of uncertainty about what Primula species was the original source of the bright red and blue pigments ...

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  5. I think cowslips are my favourite flower. I remember them from my childhood in northern England, but miss them up here in the Highlands. I've not seem the hybrids - except in flora guides - and particularly like the those in the 4th picture.

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