The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Cowslip

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COWSLIP, a popular name for several distinct species of plants, both American and European. The English cowslip is Primula officinalis, of the family Primulaceæ. It is a stemless perennial herb with a rosette of oval or oblong soft leaves, from among which arise numerous scapes 6 to 10 inches tall and bearing six or eight bright yellow, fragrant flowers in a close umbel which leans to one side. The plant has long been a general favorite in gardens were it usually receives little attention beyond an occasional stirring of the soil to remove weeds and the application of the usual winter mulch of stable manure. Several improved varieties have been produced in divers colors. The plant most widely known in America as cowslip is Caltha palustris, the marsh marigold, a member of the family Ranunculaceæ. This is a succulent perennial herb common in wet ground from the Carolinas to the Arctic regions. It has strong fibrous roots, hollow branching stems one to two feet tall, heart-shaped or kidney-shaped leaves and brilliant yellow flowers resembling buttercup, by which name the plant is sometimes called. It is often cultivated for ornament in marshy ground and has developed some improved double-flowered varieties. Its leaves and young stems are often used as a pot-herb in early spring. The American cowslip or shooting-star is Dodecatheon meadia of the family Primulaceæ. It is a stemless perennial with fibrous roots, spatulate-oblong leaves in a dense rosette from which the scape rises to a height of 9 to 18 inches or more, bearing at its summit several or many pendant pink, white or lilac flowers with reflexed petals and prominent anthers and pistils. Each flower of the cluster resembles the solitary flowers of cyclamen. Other species of the same genus are also known by the name, and like it are planted in hardy flower borders like the English cowslip.

Americana 1920 Cowslip.jpg
Photograph by J. Horace McFarland Co.