Primula beesiana (candelabra primula)
Primula beesiana is a popularly cultivated hardy perennial producing tiers of purple-red flowers in summer, and is especially dramatic when grown en masse.
About this species
Primula beesiana is a member of the genus Primula which includes primroses and cowslips. The genus is very large, with approximately 500 species, and is most diverse in China, where 300 species occur, classified into 24 sections. P. beesiana belongs to section Proliferae, a group of approximately 20 species commonly known as the candelabra primulas. Many members of this group (such as the closely related Primula bulleyana) are popular garden plants and P. beesiana is cultivated for its attractive flowers, which range from dark-red, through reddish-purple, to purple, and are produced from April to June.
Geography & Distribution
Native to southwest China (Sichuan and Yunnan provinces) and northern Myanmar (Burma). Primula beesiana has been found from 2,400 to 2,800 metres above sea level.
Primula beesiana (Image: RBG Kew)
A perennial herb with leaves forming a rosette, and with petioles (leaf stalks) up to half as long as the leaf blade. The leaf blade is narrowly oblong-oblanceolate to elliptic-oblanceolate and 8–20 x 2–6 cm. The lower leaf surface has a sparse covering of glands. The base of the leaf narrows gradually to a point. The leaf tip is rounded. The leaf margin is finely toothed.
The scapes (flower stalks) are 20–35 cm long, elongating to 50 cm when in fruit and are sometimes covered with a white, meal-like powder on the nodes. Each scape bears 2–4 umbels, each consisting of 8–16 flowers. The linear bracts are up to 2.5 cm long. The pedicel (stalk of an individual flower) is 1–2 cm long and sometimes has a sparse, floury covering.
The flowers are of two different types; ‘pin’ flowers have a style of about 1 cm long and stamens extending about 5 mm above the base of the corolla tube; ‘thrum’ flowers have a style of about 5 mm long and stamens extending about 8.5 mm above the base of the corolla tube. The sepals are joined to form a bell-shaped calyx of 5–8 mm. The petals are joined to form a deep violet to rose-coloured (rarely white) corolla with a yellow ‘eye’ in the centre. The corolla tube is orange and about 1.2 cm long. The fruit is a globose capsule, shorter than the calyx.
Threats & Conservation
Samples of Primula beesiana seeds have been stored in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank as an ex situ conservation measure.
Primula beesiana is cultivated as an ornamental and grows particularly well in damp woodland gardens.
Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage
Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.
Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: Two.
Seed storage behaviour: Orthodox (the seeds of this plant survive drying without significant reduction in their viability, and are therefore amenable to long-term frozen storage such as at the MSB).
Germination testing: 100 % germination was achieved on a 1% agar medium of 1% agar, at a temperature of 20°C, and a cycle of 8 hours of daylight/16 hours of darkness.
This species at Kew
Primula beesiana can be seen growing in the Rock Garden at Kew.
Pressed and dried specimens of P. beesiana are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment. These include a type specimen collected by the Scottish plant hunter George Forrest (1873–1932) in Yunnan in 1906.
Kew at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2011
In 2011, Kew partnered with The Times to produce a show garden to showcase the significance of plants to science and society.
The garden, designed by Chelsea gold medallist Marcus Barnett, featured species chosen to demonstrate both beauty and utility, including medicinal, commercial, and industrial uses to underline the fact that plants are invaluable to our everyday lives – without them, none of us could live on this planet; they produce our food, clothing and the air that we breathe.
Primula beesiana was one of the species that featured in the garden, which was awarded a Silver Medal.
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