Spring is here, almost (Primula denticulata)

This blog post was originally written over 3 years ago! Though it is now late in 2020, and the pandemic is still with us, looking ahead we can hope that life returns to normal soon. Primula denticulata is surely a wonderful symbol of that hope.

One of the most photographed Primula in the wild is the showy and locally abundant species, Primula denticulata. It is distributed across the Himalaya from Afghanistan through to Sichuan, but it was first collected in Nepal. It was described in 1805 by James Edward Smith and the original description includes a painting. The type specimen LINN-HS 271.2.2  (Herb Smith) was collected by Dr. Buchanan and resides at the Linnean Society. The type location is "the moist parts of the hills about Chitlong in Nepal, flowering from February to April". Buchanan's journey is detailed in "An Account of the Kingdom of Nepal", written in 1819. Chitlong (27°38'59.27"N 85°10'12.17"E) is very near to Kathmandu, though overlooked by plant enthusiasts as they head for more popular trekking areas.

Primula denticulata color forms 
 This species varies across its distribution and authorities have disagreed on the distinctions, creating numerous species which have since been lumped into P. denticulata including P. adenophora, P. aequalis, P. alta, P. cyanocephala, P. harsukhii, P. hoffmeisteri, P. limnoica, P. paucifolia, P. platycrana, P. sinodenticulata, and P. telemachica. A one time even P. capitata and P. erosa were thought to be synonymous. Primula cachemiriana, described from cultivated plants, persists as a name given to plants covered with dense yellow farina. Adding to the confusion are dwarf states which resemble P. atrodentata but can be distinguished by the presence of persistent basal bud scales which were once part of the winter resting bud. 

P. denticulata basal scales flatten to reveal true leaves and flower buds

  Many garden selections have been made. The compact flower heads are composed of numerous erect flowers in shades of purple, pinkish-purple, reddish-purple or white. It is winter hardy in my garden in Calgary, Canada though it does resent water around the resting bud in winter. It is easily grown from seed, which is produced in copious amounts and can be vegetatively propagated by splitting crowns or by root cuttings.

Masses of plants in Bhutan
Pam Eveleigh © 2020