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Primulaceae
Plants of the Primrose Family

      The Primroses are herbs or slightly woody plants with usually basal or opposite leaves, but sometimes whorled, like the four-leaved loosestrife. Some species are aquatic, while many others will be found near the water or at least in very moist soils. The flowers are regular and bisexual, often formed in clusters above a bract (modified leaf) on the main stem. There are usually 5 (rarely 4 to 9) sepals united at the base, and a similar number of petals and stamens. The petals may be united (often at the base) or separate and the stamens are aligned opposite (in the middle of) the petals. The ovary is positioned superior or partly inferior and consists of 5 united carpels (syncarpous) forming a single chamber. It matures as a capsule with 1 to numerous seeds. In some species the capsule is circumscissile, meaning the capsule has a "lid" like a pot.

      Worldwide, there are about 28 genera and 800 species.The Cyclamen is a popular houseplant that looks similar to our wild shooting stars (Dodecatheon). The common names of this family can be the source of some confusion. The Primrose Family is not related to the Evening Primrose Family, nor is the loosestrife (Lysimachia) related to the loosestrife (Lythrum) of the Loosestrife Family.

Key Words: Plants in moist soil with parts in fives and stamens aligned opposite the petals.

Please e-mail Thomas J. Elpel to report mistakes or to inquire about purchasing high resolution photos of these plants.


Androsace occidentalis. Rock Jasmine. Tobacco Root Mountains. Pony, Montana.

Anagallis arvensis. Scarlet pimpernel. Photographed in California.

Dodecatheon jeffreyi. Shooting Stars.

Dodecatheon jeffreyi. Shooting Stars.

Dodecatheon jeffreyi. Shooting Stars.

Dodecatheon jeffreyi. Shooting Stars.

Douglasia montana. Rocky Mountain Dwarf Primrose.

Douglasia montana. Rocky Mountain Dwarf Primrose.

Lysimachia ciliata. Loosestrife. Choteau, Montana.

Lysimachia ciliata. Loosestrife. Choteau, Montana.

Trientalis borealis. Starflower.

Trientalis borealis. Starflower.
Photographed in California.

There are more
Primrose Family pictures
at PlantSystematics.org.



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