Sunday, May 24, 2015

Unexpected Invader

We are all familiar with foreign plants that do too well when they are brought to a new continent. It is the case of our native fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) in the UK, and of the numerous European plants (often medicinal in origin) such as plantain (Plantago major) and coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) which are completely entrenched in North America.
Sometimes though, a foreign plant will grow or only manage to survive, but it then becomes invasive in some circumstances. It seems to be the case with the cowslip.

Cowslip (Primula veris)




The cowslip (Primula veris) is native to Europe and Asia. I have grown it, but it never did especially well and certainly never spread. I have a friend who brought some from France to be reminded of the wild flowers of her youth, but they just survive in her Canadian garden.



So you can imagine my surprise the other day when I found that Primula veris had taken over, of all places, part of a nature reserve. Not only had cowslips self seeded, but they had done so by the thousands covering the ground completely in at least an hectare at the edge of the woods! The cowslips seem to be restricted to the entrance of the reserve. For when you walk farther in, you meet with the native flora you would expect.


Cowslips on the move


I do not know why they have done so well in that spot (an area with thin soil over dolomite stone). They cover the whole ground under trees. After doing a bit of research, I see that Primula veris has naturalized in the North East of the continent. So there must be other places on this side of the Atlantic where they have established a foothold. However I did not see any mention of the cowslip taking over in the way I saw it in this nature reserve. I wonder if any other North American readers have seen the cowslip being very invasive.


Only one was tinted with red among the millions of plants


Here are some the natives that were also in bloom in the same nature reserve on Tuesday (May 19th).




24 comments:

  1. Just beautiful and delicate flowers !

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  2. As you said, Primula veris is a common plant here... but I hardly succeed to keep one plant alive...
    I think that it thrives in thin soils here too. but moister than the one in my garden...
    Beautiful trilliums and irises.
    Bonne soirée

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    1. It is interesting you say you cannot keep a cowslip alive and here they do not do well in the garden but on the edge of that forest, 20 minute drive from here, cowslips cover the ground entirely!

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  3. Well it certainly spreads out of our garden into the yard easily!

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    1. It is interesting to see that in some places they do spread.

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  4. Plants are all too often brought here without any thought. With globalization many more plants are scattered. Reed canary grass really bothers me on how it has taken over riparian areas.

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    1. We have it growing on the property here. In this area though, the main problem grass is Phragmites.

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  5. I've seen Cowslips, but they don't seem overly invasive in my area. The biggest problem plants for us are Garlic Mustard and Dame's Rocket. Total thugs here.

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    1. Garlic mustard and Dame's rocket are also invasive. But the latter is very attractive. It would seem that Garlic Mustard is not doing as well as it was a few years back. I think there is hope.

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  6. We have so many plants here that were introduced 100 yrs ago, now they are causing so much trouble in the countryside, Himalayan Balsam to name just one, which is clogging up our waterways. I had never thought that the innocent looking cowslip could be a problem!

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    1. I don't think it is a big problem but it is strange that it does s veryo well, to the detriment of other plants, in that one area.

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  7. I wish I could get cowslips to establish here, especially the red one! Trilliums, though, that would be even better!

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    1. The amazing thing is that contrast between lots of people who find it hard to grow and a place where it grows so thickly nothing else covers the forest floor!

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  8. How strange - we have just one clump of cowslips in the garden and another on the plot but they have never spread,

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    1. It is the same here. I just have a little clump holding on to life (I must say though it is growing in a very poor spot).

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  9. Wonderful Alain enjoy it while you can.
    It soon disappears here in earlySummer as it dies down.
    I wonder if you have had a few seasons of favourable conditions. I often find that plants that have naturalised madly do develop a harmony with existing residents and some times even disappear.
    The worst weed in the UK in my opinion is the bramble - and it's NATIVE
    Plants for the world as far as I am concerned

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    1. Could it be a strain that happens to be very well adapted to the conditions that exist at the edge of that forest?

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  10. Cowslips do cover quite a bit of ground in areas where they are happy but I never thought of them as invasive, they are such a welcome sight. I saw masses of them growing in thin soil on limestone pavement in Ireland last week. They looked wonderful.

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    1. They are lovely. The strange thing is finding them entirely carpeting the ground in an area set aside to show off native plants, when they are not even supposed to be invasive!

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  11. I love cowslip! It's one of my favorite spring flowers. :o) I have a single large clump of one in my garden that goes dormant every summer. It's hard to imagine this beauty as an invader.

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  12. We have our medows completeley filled with cowslips in May! And it is pretty sight to see! Lovely little plant.

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  13. I have some primulas in my garden Alain but it never spread! Strange.
    next time in the wood I'll look attentively if there are wild primulas.

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  14. Hello Alain, I've seen cow slips dotted around here and there, but nothing like the photo of them en-masse. They can be easily over-taken by other invasive plants that grow over them and shade them out. I can take them or leave them.

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