Primula scotica (Scottish Primrose)


A perennial herb, growing in a variety of moist but well-drained, usually heavily grazed, open grassland habitats that are often on calcareous substrates and sometimes liable to some sand accretion. Sites include cliff-tops, the transition zone between grassland and maritime heath, mosaics of heath and machair, and around rock outcrops. It is self-fertile, but many plants never flower. Lowland.



World Distribution


Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 9

Moisture (Ellenberg): 4

Reaction (Ellenberg): 7

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 2


Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 1

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.6

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 12.4

Annual Precipitation (mm): 1026

Life form information

Height (cm): 5

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary




Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 42

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: -0.18

Distribution information

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Primula scotica Hook.

Scottish primrose

Status: scarce


P. scotica occurs in a characteristic and species-rich short sward. This may occur in the transitional zone between the Armeria/Plantago sward and maritime heath, as a mosaic with maritime heath, as a mosaic with coarse machair, or with rock outcrops. It is accompanied by Agrostis capillaris, Carex flacca, Danthonia decumbens, Euphrasia spp., Festuca ovina, F. rubra, Plantago lanceolata, P. maritima and Thymus polytrichus, and is rarely found more than 5 km from the sea or above 100 metres.

Although often behaving as a biennial in cultivation, it is perennial in the wild. It reproduces entirely from seed and is heavily dependent on good seed-bed conditions, both edaphic and climatic. Although it is fully self-fertile in the absence of insects, it is visited by syrphids and cross-pollination may result in more vigorous plants with greater longevity. Mature plants persist long after a site has become unsuitable for germination. There is high mortality among young plants after severe winters.

Many of its major habitats are amenable to cultivation and almost all are grazed. Both over-grazing and under-grazing can be harmful, according to the exposure of the site, and most site losses, which continue, are due to one of these causes.

P. scotica is endemic. Its closest relative, P. scandinavica, is found in Norway and north-western Sweden.

For a more detailed discussion of the ecology and conservation of this species, see Bullard (1987).


E. R. Bullard

PLANTATT - Attributes of British and Irish plants. (.zip 1455KB) This dataset was compiled and published in 2004, and last updated in November 2008. Download includes an Excel spreadsheet of the attributes, and a PDF explaining the background and nomenclature. Note that the PDF version is the booklet as published, whereas the Excel spreadsheet incorporates subsequent corrections. A hardcopy can be purchased from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Atlas text references

Atlas (200d)
Survival and flowering of Primula scotica Hook,
Bullard, E. R., Shearer H. D. H., Day J. D., and Crawford R. M. M.
, Journal of Ecology, Volume 75, p.589-602, (1987)

Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols,
Hultén, E., and Fries M.
, Königstein, (1986)

The effect of temperature on reproduction in five Primula species,
McKee, J., and Richards A. J.
, Annals of Botany, Volume 82, p.359-374, (1998)

Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 2. 2 vols,
Meusel, H., Jäger E., Rauschert S., and Weinert E.
, Jena, (1978)

Biological Flora of the British Isles. No. 44. Primula scotica Hook,
Ritchie, J. C.
, Journal of Ecology, Volume 42, p.623-628, (1954)

Scarce plants in Britain,
Stewart, A., Pearman D. A., and Preston C. D.
, Peterborough, (1994)

Tremayne & Richards (1997)