Primula veris is a well-known wildflower, native to meadows and pastures throughout England, Europe and temperate Asia. The plant favours open woodland, scrub and grassland on lime-rich soils. Primula is a relaxing, sedative remedy, indicated in states of tension and nervous excitability. The flowers, which contain most of the essential oil known as primula camphor, are indicated in insomnia and nervous tension.
The primrose derives its name from the Old English primerole, which was probably a corruption of "primavera" or "first spring flower." Shakespeare calls it "the firstborn child of Ver (spring)". The original wild primroses were the cowslip and oxslip. Wild primroses have been known by a host of nicknames, including paigle, herb Peter, key flower, buckles, Mayflower, fairy cups, butter rose, or Lent rose.
Comparing a fair lady to Primerole in a medieval lyric:
1 Ichot a burde in a bour ase beryl so bryht
hire rode is ase rose žat red is on rys
wiž lilye white leres lossum he is
že primerole he passež paruenke of pris
wiž alisaundre žareto ache & anys
15 coynte ase columbine such hire cunde ys
glad vnder gore in gro & in grys
he is blosme opon bleo brihtest vnder bis
wiž celydoyne ant sauge ase žou žiself sys
žat syht vpon žat semly to blis he is broht
20 he is solsecle to sauue ys forsoht
from Brook 3, Ker 28. The Harley Lyrics, U. of Va, editor: Frances McSparran, at http://etext.lib.virginia.edu.
1 I know a noble lady; like beryl she is bright,
Her cheeks are as red as the rose on the tree,
Her skin like a lily, lovely to see,
Primrose and periwinkle are paler than she,
Aniseed, alexanders, and wild celery.
15 By nature she is dainty as the columbine,
Radiant in her rich robes and her furs fine;
Her face is like a flower, that lady of mine,
As you may see yourself, like sage and celandine.
Whoever sees that lady is lost in delight;
20 She is the healing marigold, sought to set us right.
Translation from www.soton.ac.uk/~wpwt/harl2253/ichot/ichotran.htm