COWSLIP (Primula Veris)


Cowslips in the Pocket Park

Where the bee sucks, there suck I:
In a cowslip’s bell I lie….*

The cowslip is one of our best-loved wildflowers and was once much more widespread than it is today, having suffered a dramatic decline during the years 1930 to 1980 as a result of the destruction of grassland by modern agricultural practices.

Fortunately it is now returning as a result of deliberate planting, often being included in wild-flower seed mixes used to landscape motorway banks and similar civil engineering earth-works where it may be seen in dense stands.

Its name is said to derive from "cowpat",(Old English "cuslyppe") from where Cowslips would spring up when they were common in the wild. According to legend, St Peter dropped the keys to Heaven and where they landed Cowslips grew (the flowers were thought to resemble a set of keys).

The flowers have been put to various uses throughout the years; they were thought to be 'good for the nerves and brain'. They were also used to make cowslip wine (which is still produced in some areas), a conserve, and an ointment for the skin. "For the future," says the poet Pope, in one of his letters, "I'll drown all high thoughts in the Lethe of Cowslip Wine" (which is pleasantly soporific).

*Ariel’s song: Act V Scene I, The Tempest, William Shakespeare.

Images produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service.
Images reproduced by kind permission of Ordnance Survey
and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

Photographs by Colin Wootton.