Cowslips

Found in large drifts over most of Bepton Down in both the Access Land and non Access Land sites where it will be seen in flower from early April through to the end of May. The open nature of this site lends itself particularly well to this species which suffered a sharp decline in the 1970s and 1980s due to habitat destruction brought on by intensive farming.

Once a common plant of traditional pastures, ancient woodlands and hedgerows it has always been associated with myths and folklore. The species name veris means “of spring” it is, however, not the earliest of the primulas to flower being preceded by the primerose. The common name possibly derives from the fact that it was often found in meadows grazed by cows.

It is a tall, elegant perennial which prefers dry, calcareous habitats and is often found in abundance on unimproved grassland.

The basal leaves form a rosette and are between 5-15cm long. They are oval and crinkled. Although they will subsist year round should they be cut back the plant will immediately produce another set. The flower stem emerges from the centre of the rosette and the 2-5cm across flowers of a pale yellow hue with a deep yellow spot at the base of the petals are carried gracefully. They are 5-lobed.

The seed capsules mature in July and will then open allowing the contents to fall to the ground. The seeds will not germinate until the winter frost has been allowed to kick them into life. The seedlings will be seen in early spring and will not flower for a further year.

This plant is heavily reliant on seed to produce further generations.

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