19th April 2019

Happy Primrose Day. Primroses are such wonderful harbingers of spring that they deserve their own day of recognition and, flowering so early, they benefit many insects. Only the long-tongued (proboscis) ones like Bee Fly, Brimstone Butterfly, Peacock, and Buff-tailed Bumblebee (see photo’s) can take advantage as the nectar is at the bottom of a long tube (corolla). Look closely and you can see that Primroses are either Pin-eyed (having a single pin-head female style visible at the top of the corolla/ tube,) or Thrum-eyed (having a ring of pollen-laden anthers at the top of the tube). If you carefully opened one up you would see that half-way down the tube sits the opposite reproductive part. This is called being  heterostylous, and avoids self-pollination and ensures cross-pollination. An insect picking pollen up from the Thrum-eyed would only pollinate a Pin-eyed and vice versa because of where the pollen is situated. Charles Darwin was fascinated by the primula family for this reason. He wrote in his autobiography “I do not think that anything has given me so much satisfaction as making out the meaning of the structure of

Primrose, pin-eye

Primrose, thrum-eyed

Primrose with Bee Fly feeding

Primrose, with Brimstone Butterfly feeding

Primrose, with Bufftailed Bumblebee feeding

heterostylous flowers”. You don’t need to know or care about this to enjoy the Primrose. As children, we would pick bunch after bunch for our relatives who had moved away from the country to town, posting them in damp paper in a shoe-box! It was interesting to hear the nature-writer Richard Maybe saying this morning that Primroses have recovered so well and are now so prolific in many areas that he thought children should once again be allowed the joy that we experienced, of picking small bunches. Conditions: Unseasonably warm with blue skies. Temperature: Max  21 Min 7 C.

Advertisements

1st March 2017

Primroses are out in the garden, woods and lanes, a great, early source of nectar and pollen for over-wintering Butterflies (see photo). Buy one of these wonderful native plants, (or grow from seed),  and split into many new plants every couple of years. In order to ensure cross-pollination, some Primroses have the female stigma at the mouth of the tube (Pin-eyed) and some have the male, pollen-covered anthers (‘Thrum-eyed’) at the top (see photos). Whichever is visible, further down the tube the opposite grows. So, a Butterfly or Bumblebee gathering pollen from visiting  a Pin-eyed will automatically fertilise a Thrum-eyed, and vice versa. Conditions: Sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 8- Min 2C.

Primrose thrum-eyed

Primrose thrum-eyed

Primrose, pin-eyed

Primrose, pin-eyed

Primrose and Peacock

Primrose and Peacock

Primrose

Primrose