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Primula veris (Cowslip; syn. Primula officinalis Hill) is a flowering plant in the genus Primula. The species is found throughout most of temperate Europe and Asia, and although absent from more northerly areas including much of northwest Scotland, it reappears in northernmost Sutherland and Orkney.<ref>Preston, Pearman & Dines (2002) New Atlas of the British Flora. Oxford University Press.</ref>
The common name cowslip derives from the Old English cūslyppe meaning "cow dung", probably because the plant was often found growing amongst the manure in cow pastures.<ref>Anon. "Cowslip". Word-Origins. Word-Origins.com. http://www.word-origins.com/definition/cowslip.html. Retrieved 8 May 2010. </ref>
The species name vēris means "of spring".<ref></ref>
Cowslip, Cuy lippe, Herb Peter, Paigle, Peggle, Key Flower, Key of Heaven, Fairy Cups, Petty Mulleins, Crewel, Buckles, Palsywort, Plumrocks, Mayflower, Password, Artetyke, Drelip, Our Lady's Keys, Arthritica, Cuy, Frauenchlussel, Lady's Key, Lippe, Paralysio.<ref>Kaldera, Raven. "Herbal". Northen - Tradition Shamanism. http://www.northernshamanism.org/herbal/herbal.html#cowslip. Retrieved 2009-12-23. </ref>
Characteristics and habitat
Primula veris is a low growing herbaceous perennial plant with a rosette of leaves 5–15 cm long and 2–6 cm broad. The deep yellow flowers are produced in the spring between April and May; they are in clusters of 10-30 together on a single stem 5–20 cm tall, each flower 9–15 mm broad. Red-flowered plants do occur, very rarely.
It is frequently found on more open ground than Primula vulgaris (primrose) including open fields, meadows, and coastal dunes and clifftops. The seeds are often included in wild-flower seed mixes used to landscape motorway banks and similar civil engineering earth-works where the plants may be seen in dense stands.
It may be confused with the closely related Primula elatior (oxlip) which has a similar general appearance although the oxlip has larger, pale yellow flowers more like a primrose, and a corolla tube without folds.
Primula veris contains glycosides, primeverin and primulaverin<ref>Kolektiv autorů (1989). Farmakognózia. Osveta/Avicenum. ISBN 8021700831. </ref> and saponine primula acid A.<ref>biotox.cz</ref> and is used by herbalists as a diuretic, an expectorant, and an antispasmodic, as well as for the treatment of headaches, whooping cough, tremors, and other conditions. It can, however, have irritant effects in those who are allergic to it.<ref>Howard, Michael. Traditional Herbal Remedies (Century, 1987); pp128-9.</ref>
In the midland and southern counties of England, a sweet and pleasant wine resembling the muscadel is made from the cowslip flower, and it is one of the most wholesome and pleasant of home-made wines, and slightly narcotic in its effects. In times when English wines were more used, every housewife in Warwickshire could produce her clear cowslip wine...the cowslip is still sold in many markets for this purpose, and little cottage girls still ramble the meadows during April and May in search of it...country people use it as a salad or boil it for the table.<ref name="Pratt">Pratt, Anne (1840). "Chapter II, Primrose". Flowers and their associations (full text). London: Charles Knight and Co.. pp. 22, 23. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ktkDAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1&dq=Flowers+and+their+associations+Anne+pratt&ei=U6vkS97mIqOgzAShtpj6CQ&cd=5#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved 8 may 2010. </ref>
Other Old English names for the plant were "paigle" and "drelip".<ref name="Pratt"/> Cowslips were used in England as a garland on maypoles.<ref name="wildlife watch">Anon (2009). "Cowslip". Wildlife Watch. The Wildlife Trusts. http://www.wildlifewatch.org.uk/Explore-wildlife/Plants/Flowers/cowslip. Retrieved 8 May 2010. </ref>
Cowslip leaves have been traditionally used in Spanish cooking as a salad green. Uses in English cookery includes using the flowers to flavour country wine and vinegars; sugared to be a sweet or eaten as part of a composed salad while the juice of the cowslip is used to prepare tansy for frying. The close cousin of the cowslip, the primrose (P. vulgaris), has often been confused with the cowslip and its uses in cuisine are similar with the addition of its flowers being used as a colouring agent in desserts.
- Davidson, Alan. Oxford Companion to Food (1999), "Cowslip". p. 221 ISBN 0-19-211579-0
- Charles Darwin on Primula hybrids, including cowslips and oxlips Accessed 8 May 2007
- Image of yellow and red-flowered cowslips growing on a farm in Gloucestershire, England Accessed 8 May 2007
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