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.

P. strumosa or P. calderiana subsp. strumosa ?

Primula strumosa
The yellow flowered species, P. strumosa was described from plants found at Champa Pumthang in Bhutan and it was associated with P. elongata  which it distinguished in having a long seed capsule opening by valves. The purple flowered species, P. calderiana, was described from plants found near Changu in Eastern Sikkim. It had been confused with an earlier described species, P. obtusifolia, a nivalid, from which it is easily distinguished by the leaves and seed capsule.

Primula calderiana
P. calderiana and P. strumosa are very similar in their characteristics but differ in flower color, and perhaps scent (this is very subjective) and in their geographical ranges, with P. calderiana distributed in the Eastern part of the Himalayas and P. strumosa distributed to the West. These two species rarely meet, but when they do, hybridization occurs, giving a range of muddy colors.
Primula calderiana X  Primula strumosa
John Richards in Journal of the Scottish Rock Garden Club 15(3):211. 1977. acknowledges that the range of the two species are mostly separate but notes that wild hybrids do occur. His testing of cultivated hybrids shows that they are 100% pollen-fertile. Therefore, he placed P. strumosa as a subspecies of P. calderiana. Often the criteria used to describe a subspecies is if it is capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring with the species in the wild, but does not interbreed due to factors such as geographic isolation, etc.

Subsequent to Richards publication, Polunin & Stainton in "Flowers of the Himalaya" (1984) and Gould in Hara, An enumeration of the flowering plants of Nepal" (1982) followed Richards without comment. The Flora of Bhutan (1999) and The Flora of China (1994) retained P. strumosa as a distinct species with comments justifying their positions. Mostly, this is based on notes by Ludlow that in the field, pure P. strumosa was found at a higher elevation than pure P. calderiana and the only hybrids were found at an intermediate elevation between the two pure populations. The recent book The Genus Primula L. in India goes one step further than Richards, in reducing P. strumosa to a variety of P. calderiana but they do not justify this position and do not acknowledge the altitudinal preferences of the two species.

Unless there is more convincing evidence, I am retaining P. strumosa as a distinct species.

Primula Leaf Glossary

There are many terms that are used to describe Primula leaves and an understanding of what they mean is crucial to distinguishing species.

Lamina, or leaf blade, is the flat part of the leaf.
Apex is the point or tip of the lamina.
Base is the bottom of the lamina.
Veins appear as raised lines on the lamina. See Leaf Venation in Primula
Mid rib is the prominent vein which runs from the apex through the center of the lamina.
Margin is the edge of the lamina.
Petiole is the leaf stalk which attaches the leaf to the plant stem.

Each of these parts can vary in shape as shown the diagrams.

Leaf Shapes

Leaf Margins
Leaf Apex, Venation & Bases
Leaves can be petiolate (a petiole is present). Petioles can be distinct (clearly defined), indistinct (not defined) or winged (edged with a thin flange of tissue). It is important when extracting a leaf from a plant for imaging, that the petiole is intact. Remove the leaf by gently tugging downwards along the stem.

Winged petiole