37185438 - cowslips on a hill in the landscape cowslip

Cowslips. Photo credit: pixphoto/123rf.com

The egg yolk yellow flowers of the Cowslip (Primula veris) are a welcome sign of spring. A herbaceous perennial of the Primrose family Primulaceae, the Cowslip flowers throughout April and May, providing an early nectar source for long tongued bees, butterflies, moths and bee flies. The flowering stems arise out of a rosette of wrinkled leaves and the flowers are a deep yellow with an orange base. The flowers cluster together at the top of the stems, often drooping to one side. The plant prefers chalky soils that are moist and well draining but can also grow well in dry, non-calcareous soils. 

Common in traditional meadows, it is sometimes present in the wildflower areas managed by our Fair to Nature farmers. One of our members’ has a former arable field that has been reverted back to grassland and Cowslips are now abundant in this field. Another of our members’ has a long established wildflower area adjacent to an arable field and the Cowslips are the first to flower in this habitat each year. The name ‘Cowslip’ is derived from the Old English word for cow pat, cu-sloppe, reflecting the presence of the plant in traditional grazed meadows.


The nodding flowers of the Cowslip. Photo credit: S Abbott/CG

Although still a common flower in many parts of the UK, the Cowslip is declining and meadows full of Cowslips are a rarity. Much of the decline occurred between the 1940s and 1980s as agriculture intensified. Only 2% of the wildflower meadows that existed in the UK in the 1930s remain today!

You can help our farmers to create and manage more wildflower areas in our countryside by choosing Fair to Nature brands. The brands contribute towards the cost of managing the wildlife habitats.

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