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University of Chicago Press


For centuries common primroses have spread breathtaking carpets of pale lemon yellow across the globe, the first sign of spring. Abundant, edible, and beneficial for many ailments, they have supported civilization’s social and cultural foundations. When undaunted plant hunters risked their lives to introduce the many Himalayan primroses of breathtaking beauty, the primrose gained iconic status. Capable of endless variation, primroses have captured the attention of gardeners, plant breeders, and scientists, while artists and poets have found them essential as both subject matter and muse. William Shakespeare introduced us to the “the primrose path,” a pleasurable but destructive route, in several of his plays, and Charles Darwin spent more than thirty years working with primroses to solve an elegant evolutionary mystery.

This book tells the story of how primroses became so successful, circling the Earth, adapting to human civilization, and yet holding their own on inaccessible craggy summits where they may never be seen. Bringing together facts, folklore, and beautiful images from around the world, Primrose is a delightful guide to this hugely popular flower.

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