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Primula verticillata was found by Peter Forsskål (1732-1763), a Finnish plant collector (and student of Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus) who visited Arabia in 1762. The specific epithet verticillata (from the Latin verticillatus, meaning whorled) refers to the flowers, which are in rings on the stem.

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description
An attractive perennial with elegant yellow flowers, Primula verticillata is native to north-east Africa and south-west Arabia, and is one of the parents of the Kew primrose (' P. kewensis').

Primula verticillata was found by Peter Forsskål (1732-1763), a Finnish plant collector (and student of Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus) who visited Arabia in 1762. The specific epithet verticillata (from the Latin verticillatus, meaning whorled) refers to the flowers, which are in rings on the stem.

In addition to P. verticillata subsp. verticillata there are two other subspecies. P. verticillata subsp. simensis (the Abyssinian primrose, sometimes treated as a separate species, P. simensis) occurs in the Ethiopian Highlands. It is a more compact plant with paler grey leaves than those of P. verticillata subsp. verticillata. The much rarer P. verticillata subsp. boveana (sometimes referred to as P. boveana) is an even smaller plant, restricted to Mount Sinai (Egypt). It was named in honour of Nicolas Bové (1812-1841), one of the first botanists to study the flora of the Sinai Peninsula.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Native to north-east Africa and south-west Arabia (including Saudi Arabia, the Yemen Republic, Ethiopia and Somalia), where it occurs on damp limestone hills and damp shady cliffs. In the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia it is found in alpine grassland in the alpine zone from 3,800 m above sea level, along with giant lobelia ( Lobelia rhynchopetalum ), everlastings ( Helichrysum species), and scattered tree heather ( Erica arborea ).

Description

Primula verticillata is a perennial with stems up to 70 cm long. The greyish-green leaves are spear-shaped, up to 30 cm long in a rosette. P. verticillata bears several whorls of long-tubed, golden-yellow, scented flowers in late spring. Reproduction is by seed.

Threats and conservation

Primula verticillata subspecies boveana is known only from Mount Sinai (Egypt), an area subject to frequent drought, placing its wild population under threat. 

Since it is separated from the other subspecies by vast areas of desert, where primulas would not survive, it seems likely that P. verticillata subsp. boveana and its closest relatives migrated to the Arabian Peninsula and north-east Africa from the Himalaya (where there are many more species of Primula ) when the climate was wetter. 

If Egypt becomes drier in the future as a result of climate change, the wild population of P. verticillata subsp. boveana could be in danger.

In Ethiopia, Primula verticillata is protected within the Simien National Park and World Heritage Site.

Uses

In Saudi Arabia, the ground rhizome of Primula verticillata is used in traditional ethnoveterinary medicine for treating fever in camels and as a general tonic. P. verticillata is cultivated as an ornamental and is suitable for growing in a cool greenhouse in temperate climates.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: Two

Germination testing: 100 % germination was achieved on a 1% agar medium, at a temperature of 20°C, on a cycle of 8 hours daylight/16 hours darkness

Cultivation

Primula verticillata should be grown in well-drained, leafy soil and be shaded from hot summer sun. It needs winter protection in northern Europe and makes a good, early-flowering (March) species for the cool greenhouse. It will not tolerate temperatures more than a couple of degrees below freezing.

This species at Kew

Primula verticillata can be seen growing in the Davies Alpine House at Kew; these plants were grown from seed collected in the Yemen in 1975 by Kew botanist Nigel Hepper (now retired).

Pressed and dried specimens of P. verticillata are held in Kew's Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment. The details of one of these specimens, including an image, can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

The Kew primrose

The Kew primrose (known as ' Primula kewensis ') is a fertile interspecific hybrid derived from a cross between Primula floribunda (from the Himalaya) and Primula verticillata . This hybrid ( Primula x kewensis ) first occurred by chance in the glasshouses at Kew in the late 1890s.

It has ovoid leaves up to 20 cm long, which are covered in greyish-white farina (a mealy or powdery covering), and has bright yellow, fragrant flowers. The type form of the hybrid was awarded a First Class Certificate by the Royal Horticultural Society when it was exhibited in 1900.

In order to verify the supposition that the parents were indeed P. floribunda and P. verticillata the cross was repeated artificially using P. verticillata as the pollen parent. The resultant offspring were all sterile with 'thrum'-type flowers (with the stamens protruding from the flower), so the stock had to be propagated by cuttings or division.

Most of the sterile stock was acquired by the famous Veitch and Sons nursery in 1901. Around 1905, a single 'pin'-eyed flower (one with the style more prominent) was noticed amongst the nursery stock. This flower was fertilised with pollen from a 'thrum'-eyed flower and viable seed was set. Subsequently, the cross between the two parents has been repeated at various times, and various forms selected.

Genetically, ' Primula kewensis ' is an allopolyploid (having more than two sets of haploid chromosomes inherited from different species). The Kew primrose is available from commercial nurseries and is suitable for a cool greenhouse in temperate climates.

At Kew it can be seen growing in the Arboretum Nursery.

Distribution
Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen
Ecology
By streams and shaded cliffs on limestone hills, and in alpine grassland.
Conservation
Primula verticillata is not considered to be at risk in the wild, but one subspecies,  P. verticillata subsp. boveana, has a restricted distribution and could potentially be at risk from climate change.
Hazards

None known.

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[KSP]
Use
Ornamental, traditional ethnoveterinary use in Saudi Arabia.

Native to:

Eritrea, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen

English
Yellow primrose

Primula verticillata Forssk. appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Fl. Aegypt.-Arab.: 42 (1775)

Accepted by

  • Hedberg, I., Kelbessa, E., Edwards, S., Demissew, S. & Persson, E. (eds.) (2006). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea 5: 1-690. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia & The Department of Systematic Botany, Upps.
  • Thulin, M. (ed.) (2006). Flora of Somalia 3: 1-626. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Wood, J.R.I. (1997). A handbook of the Yemen Flora: 1-434. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Literature

Kew Species Profiles

  • Alyemeni, M.N., Hassan, S. & Wijaya, L. (2010). Some observations on Saudi medicinal plants of veterinary importance. J. Med. Plants Res. 4: 2298-2304.
  • Mabberley, D.J. (2008). Mabberley’s Plant-book: A Portable Dictionary of Plants, their Classification and Uses, 3rd Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. (2008) Seed Information Database (SID). Version 7.1.
  • Richards, J. (2002). Primula. Batsford Ltd, London.
  • Stearn, W.T. (2000). Botanical Latin, 4th Edition. David & Charles, Devon.
  • Phillips, R. & Rix, M. (1998). Conservatory and Indoor Plants, Volume 2. Pan Books Ltd, London.
  • Cullen, J. et al. (eds) (1997). The European Garden Flora, Volume V. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Huxley, A., Griffiths, M. & Levy, M. (eds) (1992). The New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening, Vol. 3 (L to Q). Macmillan Reference Ltd, London.
  • Digby, L. (1912). The cytology of Primula kewensis and of other related Primula hybrids. Ann. Bot. 26: 357-388 (with Plates XLI-XLIV).
  • Hooker, W.J. (1828). Primula verticillata. Curtis’s Bot. Mag. 55: t. 2842.

Kew Backbone Distributions

  • Thulin, M. (ed.) (2006). Flora of Somalia 3: 1-626. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Science Photographs
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
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