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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Daniel Oliver   [before February 1868]1

Primula veris L. sp. Pl. 204 included both cowslip & Primrose

his vars were α officinalis
β elatior
γ acaulis2

Benth. makes all one species P. veris L.

distingg. P. vulgaris Brit. Fl. = Primrose
veris. Brit. Fl. = Cowslip
elatior " — = oxlip.3

Continent (Koch)

calls Primrose P. acaulis. Jacq. Misc. 1.158
Cowslip P. officinalis Jacq. l.c.1594


The date is established by the use of this material in CD’s paper ‘Specific difference in Primula, which was completed on 1 February 1868 (see n. 2, below, and ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 16, Appendix II)).
The taxonomy of Primula, together with the Greek symbols, are given in Species plantarum (Linnaeus 1753, pp. 142–4). Carolus Linnaeus classed P. elatior (the oxlip) and P. acaulis (now P. vulgaris, the primrose) as varieties of P. veris (the cowslip). CD noted Linnaeus’s taxonomy of Primula in ‘Specific difference in Primula, p. 437; CD argued, however, that P. veris and P. vulgaris were distinct species, and that P. elatior was a hybrid of P. veris and P. vulgaris. CD also argued that P. elatior, Jacq. (the Bardfield oxlip) was a distinct species.
In his Handbook of the British flora, George Bentham described the three forms of Primula, remarking that, while most botanists since Linnaeus had considered them as distinct species, more recent investigation had shown that Linnaeus’s views were correct (Bentham 1865, pp. 538–9).
The reference is to Wilhelm Daniel Joseph Koch. The taxonomy is given in Koch 1843–4, 2: 673–4. The page references are to the original descriptions in Jacquin 1778–81.


Bentham, George. 1865b. Handbook of the British flora; a description of the flowering plants and ferns indigenous to, or naturalized in, the British Isles. For the use of beginners and amateurs. 2 vols. London: Lovell Reeve & Co.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Jacquin, Nikolaus Josef. 1778–81. Miscellanea Austriaca ad botanicam, chemiam, et historiam naturalem spectantia. 2 vols. in 1. Vienna: Krausiana.

Koch, Wilhelm Daniel Joseph. 1843–4. Synopsis florae Germanicae et Helveticae, exhibens stirpes phanerogamas rite cognitas, praemissa generum dispositione secundum classes et ordines systematis Linnaeani conscripta. 2d edition. 2 vols. Frankfurt: Fridericus Wilmans. Leipzig: Gebhardt & Reisland.

Linnaeus, Carolus (Carl von Linné). 1753. Species plantarum, exhibentes plantas rite cognitas, ad genera relatas, cum differentiis specificis, nominibus trivialibus, synonymis selectis, locis natalibus, secundum systema sexuale digestas. 2 vols. Stockholm: Laurentius Salvius.

‘Specific difference in Primula’: On the specific difference between Primula veris, Brit. Fl. (var. officinalis of Linn.), P. vulgaris, Brit. Fl. (var. acaulis, Linn.), and P. elatior, Jacq.; and on the hybrid nature of the common oxlip. With supplementary remarks on naturally produced hybrids in the genus Verbascum. By Charles Darwin. [Read 19 March 1868.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 10 (1869): 437–54.


Notes on the taxonomy of Primula.

Letter details

Letter no.
Daniel Oliver
Charles Robert Darwin
Source of text
DAR 108: 81

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5824F,” accessed on 4 March 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16