FOTD: The Oxslip

The local Oxslips are flowering. These plants, which belong to the Primula genus, are always a welcome and a pretty sight.

The Oxslip (Primula elatior)

Ever wondered why an Oxlip is called an Oxlip? Or why its close relative the Cowslip is called the Cowslip?

The “ox” or “cow” bit is, as you would imagine, fairly straightforward as it refers to oxen and cows. The “slip” isn’t much of a mystery either.

But why do oxen and cows slip? It may be because the flowers grow in damp meadows where, if you believe it, oxen and cows might slip over. I am not convinced about that though.

It might be related to the “slippery sap” that these plants have, that was used in traditional medicine to treat respiratory ailments.

An alternative possibility that is put forward is that Oxslip and Cowslip are actually distorted pronunciations of “ox slop” or “cow slop” which is another word for a cow pat – which depending on where you live you might call a cow pie or cow patty. Such naming could have arisen from the appearance of these flowers in the middle of cow pats.

In other words, we don’t really know. But nevertheless, we can still enjoy these beautiful flowers.

This is my submission to Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Cowslip or oxslip?

Reading your comments below made I realise I didn’t explain the difference between a cowslip and an oxslip.

Cowslip (Primula veris) (C) Grantham Ecology

The Cowslip can be identified by orange flecks inside the flower. The flowers tend to be a deeper shade of yellow. And they smell like apricots.

Oxslip (Primula elatior) (C) Grantham Ecology

The Oxslip is paler yellow, does not have orange flecks, and does not smell of apricots.


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