5 Easy Ways to Tell Cowslips from Oxlips

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Both the Oxlip (Primula elatior) and the Cowslip (Primula veris) are flowering in late March and April.  These two wild relatives of the primrose look very similar to each other, and if you're not an expert it can be quite tricky to tell the two apart.  Here are five tips to help you to identify them in the field.


1. Oxlip flowers tend to be a pale yellow colour with a hint of green, while the Cowslip tends to be a rich yellow with a hint of orange.

2. The flower of the Cowslip is bell shaped while the Oxlip flower is more open like that of a Primrose.

3. The scent of the Cowslip has a distinct apricot smell, so if you can't smell apricots then you can be pretty sure it's an oxlip.


4. The calyx (sepals) of the Cowslip are a uniform pale green colour while the calyx of the Oxlip has a dark green midrib, giving it a slightly variegated appearance.


5. Both plants have crinkled leaves, but those of the Cowslip tend to be more curled at the edges, while those of the Oxlip tend to be flatter.

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