Cowslip: herb Peter



There must be 101 reasons to visit Durlston Country Park near Swanage in May and this is certainly one of them. In the flower meadows at the top of the cliffs there are countless numbers of cowslips (Primula veris). The same is true of the neighbouring Dorset Wildlife Trust reserve of Townsend.
Cowslips were once very common. These days they are still found throughout the county in meadows and on grassland, occasionally even in the middle of roundabouts! They are closely related to the primrose, they are both Primulas and that is where part of the problem lies, Many gardens have cultivated Primula species, especially Polyanthus. Insects visit these and then go on to the the wild cowslip causing hybridisation; gradually the truly natural wild species will die out. The same is happening to Bluebells.
The cowslip has various other country names including herb Peter! The origin of the name cowslip is unclear but may derive from the fact that it grows well in meadows well manured by cow dung or cow slips. 
Cowslip: herb Peter

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