China 2014

Pam travelled to Yunnan, China in the spring of 2014 to hunt for Primulas. Click image for more...

Primula Rediscovered

Primula bracteata and Primula bullata are found in their type locations after 125 years.

Near Lhasa, Tibet

How do you tell the difference between P. tibetica and P. fasciculata?

Primula ambita in the Wild

The first ever cultivated plant caused a stir at Chelsea earlier this year.

New Primula Book

The latest Primula book is a revision of the 106 species of Primula found in India.

Two Primulas from Everest Epedition of 1921


In 1921, the British Mount Everest reconnaissance expedition set off to explore possible routes up Everest. Since Nepal was closed to foreigners at the time, the expedition approached through Sikkim, into Tibet's Chumbi valley, then west to Tingri Dzong (north of Everest), which they used as a base. From here members explored south for routes up Everest including the Rongbuk valley, and Nangpa La. The expedition naturalist, A. F. Wollaston (image above, standing, at left) collected flora and fauna specimens which included two new Primulas; Primula buryana named for one of the expedition members, C. K. Howard-Bury, and Primula wollastonii named for himself. The route he travelled was a loop to the west of Mount Everest, first to Nyenyam (Nyalam) and then through Lapche to the Rongshar valley.

Primula wollastonii
In Howard-Bury's book "Mount Everest the reconnaissance, 1921" on page 298, Wollaston wrote about this side-trip and provided notes on the Natural History of the area. He writes of the discovery of the two Primulas;
"Crossing a pass to the East of Nyenyam, we camped on a level spot covered densely with white primulas (P. buryana) six to eight inches high; and inch or two of snow fell during the night, and so white are these flowers that it was difficult to see them against the snow. Near the top of another pass we found at about the same altitude, 15,000 feet, another primula (P. wollastonii) with three to six bells on each stem, the size of a small thimble, of a deep blue color, and lined inside with frosted silver."
Primula buryana
Using Wollaston's diary (Letters and Diaries of A.F.R. Wollaston) for July 20 (Nyenyam) to July 25, and a map of the expedition (Preliminary Map to illustrate the route of the Mount Everest Expedition 1921) plus more modern maps (NH 45-14 Tingri Dzong), it is possible to find the type locations for these two Primulas. The Tibet Handbook, page 263 describes the route in detail between Lapche and Trintang which where the Primulas were found. Wollaston incorrectly refers to Trintang as Rongshar. The route starts at Lapche (28° 6'56.56"N 86°10'17.96"E), heading NE up the main valley for about 6kms before turning into a side valley going to the SE. Wollaston camped at 15,200ft up this valley where he found Primula buryana. The next day he crossed the Kangchung La (28° 5'35.55"N 86°14'28.97"E) descending into an area of broken up glacier covered in moraine before going over the Kanchen La (28° 4'32.97"N 86°15'9.07"E), where he found Primula wollastonii, eventually crossing "two steep spurs" which are named Oodungpa La and Sobje La and are separated by a small lake. The route then descends directly down to Trintang.

Map of area Lapche-Trintang
The type for P. wollastonii is in Kew K000750421, with a syntype on the same sheet and the type herbarium sheet for P. buryana is also in Kew K000750442. Both are species in section Soldanelloides, which are high alpine species, with bell shaped flowers and pubescent leaves.

Primula buryana var. purpurea
A purple variety of P. buryana was discovered at Michet, Nepal by Sharma July 9, 1932 (#E345a). The collection can be seen at BM BM000521890 or at E E00024733. It Is possible that this represents a distinct species. 
 

Pam Eveleigh © 2018


Primula sachalinensis

Primula sachalinensis: 
The island Sakhalin lies just north of Japan's Hokkaido and east of mainland Russia. Historically, it has been claimed by both Russia and Japan. For the period of 1905 to 1945, the island was split, with Japan holding the southern portion, and calling it Karafuto. It was during this time, in 1932, that Primula sachalinensis was described¹ by the Japanese botanist Takenoshin Nakai. He cited the type location as "Sachalin: in humidis secus Bakenuma, Hoyankei" and he named M. Gozeki as the collector. Presumably the type sheet resides in TI (Tokoyo) but it isn't online. However a sheet with a part of the type specimen is available at E (Edinburgh) mounted with a second gathering collected 2 weeks later.
Primula sachalinensis at Magunant mud volcano
It is difficult to find "Bakenuma, Hoyankei" on a map since Russia now has control over Sakhalin and Russian names are used. However it is generally accepted that this refers to the Magunant mud volcano, in the Pugachevskie volcano group, at 48°13'41.00"N 142°34'0.00"E. The name "Hoyankei" seems to match "Hoyori village" in the old Japanese Shikuka Subprefecture.

A white form growing at Magunant mud volcano
In 1996, Y. Lee described Primula sachalinensis f. albida, without a type designated. In the same reference, Lee also include an image of a white flowered Primula which he labelled this species, and which was photographed on "백두산" which is Mount Baekdu, now called Paektu located at 42° 0'8.81"N 128° 3'29.81"E on the Korea - China border. As per the discussion following, plants on Mount Paektu are not Primula sachalinensis.

Primula sachalinensis has been considered a variation of Primula farinosa and certainly it is close, but the base of the bracts are gibbose. Regular Primula farinosa does not grow on Sakhalin and Bukhteeva³ noted that these plants growing on freshly ejected mud substrate differed from normal Primula farinosa to such an extent that the classification of Primula sachalinensis as a distinct species, endemic to Sakhalin, was justified. Kovtonyuk included Primula sachalinensis in a genetic study and confirmed it was distinct and more closely related to Primula mistassinica, Primula modesta and Primula incana.

¹ Original description on page 61 within the PDF of Bot. Mag. (Tokyo) 1932, xlvi.
² Original description Fl. Korea (Lee) 1159, without type. 1996.
³ Bukhteeva, A.V., Primula sachalinensis Nakai, the Primula species of the Maguntan volcano, Bot. Zh., 1960, vol. 45, no. 5, pp 746-748.
Kovtonyuk, N.K. and Goncharov, A.A., Phylogenetic relationships in the Genus Primula L. (Primulaceae) inferred from the ITS region sequences of nuclear rDNA, Russ. J. Genet., 2009, vol. 45, no. 6, pp. 663-670.

Pam Eveleigh © 2018

Studying Primula gracilipes


When in Nepal in the spring of 2018, I had a chance to study Primula gracilipes in detail. This species blooms early - I saw it in April. It belongs in section Petiolares and is closely related to several other species which have a similar loose cushion habit and dimorphic leaves (two different leaf shapes are produced depending on the time of year). One of the key features to see when identifying this group of species is the flower scape (or lack of). I used a technique where leaves were removed from one side of the plant to observe this and those leaves were then laid out for imaging. What follows are some of the images I took to document this species. Click on the images for larger sized versions.
An example plant is removed from the soil and measured.
The plant is shown upside down to show the root structure
and the absence of basal bud scales

Leaves removed from one side on the plant, with petioles intact. The leaves are arranged in order of their removal,
outer leaves (left) and inner leaves (right). The leaves are turned over, keeping their placement to show the underside.
Now you can see the internal structure of the plant.
You can clearly see that there is no scape, but that each pedicle comes from the base of the plant. You can see the bracts which are broad at the base and taper to a point.
P. gracilipes produces two different leaf shapes. The form with the long petioles are produced late season so I searched the base of several plants to find last years old leaves.

At a lower elevation I found plants which had bloomed earlier and were now producing this second leaf shape.

An example of farina on new leaves (right)

The flowers are shown from the side to see variation in the calyx. The flower on the right is a "thrum", and you can see the bulge in the flower tube where the anthers are located.

Farina on the back of the flowers
Folding a black velvet cloth, I make a place to hold the flowers upright to show the face.
This allows me to show variation in color and shape.
Using a sharp razor blade, I cut open a flower. This is a "pin" where the anthers are below the stigma.
This is a "thrum" where the anthers are above the stigma.
At lower elevations, plants were forming seed capsules.
Variations in color.
Pale color variation.

Dark color variation.
Habitat.

Habitat.

Habitat.
P. aureata (left), P. gracilipes (right).

P. gracilipes (top), P. deuteronana (bottom).

Comparison of P. deuteronana (left), P. gracilipes (right).
 
Pam Eveleigh © 2018