Primula vialii (orchid primrose)
Primula vialii is a striking perennial, with unusual spikes of pinkish flowers, tipped with red.
About this species
Primula vialii was found by the Scottish plant hunter George Forrest (1873-1932), and was named P. littoniana after his friend, Consul G. Litton of Tengyueh (on the Burma-China frontier), who had provided considerable help in his travels in the locality. Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), the eccentric English writer on mystic and occult subjects, also travelling in China, reported meeting 'a botanist named George Forrest' and described how, when the unfortunate Litton fell ill, 'Forrest and I galloped furiously into the darkness' to get a doctor. Sadly, it was too late, and Litton subsequently died. The name P. littoniana is now relegated to a synonym, as the plant had in fact already been named P. vialii by another plant hunter, the French missionary botanist Père Delavay.
Geography & Distribution
Native to China (north and northwest Yunnan and southwest Sichuan), where it is found growing in wet meadows, near water in valleys, and in thickets of prickly oak bushes, from 2,800 to 4,000 m above sea level.
Primula vialii has stout stems up to 60 cm tall, topped with spires of numerous, tiny, pinkish-purple flowers, which are red at the top of the spike when in bud. The flowers open from June to August. The leaves are erect, spear-shaped, softly hairy, and up to 30 cm long. Propagation is by seed.
Illustration from Curtis's Botanical Magazine
Watercolour image of Primula vialii by Matilda Smith taken from Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (1910).
Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (Editor: Martyn Rix) provides an international forum of particular interest to botanists and horticulturists, plant ecologists and those with a special interest in botanical illustration.
Now well over two hundred years old, the Magazine is the longest running botanical periodical featuring colour illustrations of plants. Each four-part volume contains 24 plant portraits reproduced from watercolour originals by leading international botanical artists. Detailed but accessible articles combine horticultural and botanical information, history, conservation and economic uses of the plants described.
Published for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
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Primula vialii is grown as an ornamental for its unusual spikes of pinkish flowers, tipped with red.
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.
Germination testing: 100% germination was achieved on a germination medium of 1% agar, at a temperature of 21°C, and a cycle of 12 hours of daylight / 12 hours of darkness.
Primula vialii is easily grown from seed in fertile, reasonably moist but well-drained soils in a cool position. It can be grown in partial shade in woodland gardens and does especially well alongside streams or ponds, but can also be grown in open sites providing the soil is moist. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it their Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
This species at Kew
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