Cowslips, with their typical flowers and their wrikled leaves are easy to recognize. There are however two similar Primula species that occur in our region:
The cowslip has darker yellow petals, each with a little orange spot in the middle and a wide, folded, green corolla.
The petals of the oxlip (Primula elatior Hill), that occurs in clear forests, are much lighter (sulfur-) yellow, larger and spread flat. There is only one larger orange spot in the middle of the flower tube. The corolla is not folded but closely applied to the corolla.
Did you know?
The german name for the cowslip is Schlüsselblume, which can be translated as Key-flower. A legend says the flowers represent the keys to the gate of heaven, which St. Peter let fall in fright, when he heard that there were a number of copies of these keys around.
When you look closely at the flowers of the cowslip, you can see that in some flowers the long pistils reach out of the flower tube, and the stamens are short and hidden within the tube, whereas in the other flowers the situation is inverse and the long stamens reach out of the flower and the short pistil is hidden. If an insect comes to a flower with long stamens, the pollen will be placed far to the back of the insect and can only pollinate a flower with a long pistil. This leads to an optimal mixing of the genotypes.