Primulaceae (Primrose Family)

Members of Primulaceae are nearly all herbaceous (lacking a woody stem) plants with simple leaves that are either basal (at the base of the stem), distributed along the stem, or in a single whorl.


The flowers maybe singular or in racemes, with cuplike or tubular corollas and calyx that have 5 well developed lobes. The 5 stamens are attached to the tube of the corolla. The exception is in Trientalis latifolia (Pacific Starflower), which may have 5 to 7 lobes, even on the same plant. The pistil, usually free of the calyx, develops into a many seeded fruit, which sometimes breaks apart cross-wise instead of laterally.

Domesticated versions of Primrose, Soldanella and Cyclamen are members of this family, most of which were first cultivated in Europe. The native Trientalis latifolia (Pacific Starflower), found on Montara Mountain, can be easily grown from seed in the garden, but propagates so aggressively through underground stems that it may become more of a bother than an asset. (It's always nice to see a native that acts as aggressive as the aliens.) Our other common representative of Primulaceae is the everpresent invasive Anagallis arvenis, or Scarlet Pimpernel.



Anagallis arvenis:
Scarlet Pimpernel

Primulaceae (Primrose Family)


Flowers: Salmon with reddish center, five petals, small, barely joined into a tube; close up at night.

Blooms: March - September.

Leaves: Small, paired on stems, wavy.

Fruit/Seeds: Small tan beads.

Location: Everywhere, common along trails and disturbed areas.

Status: Alien - Invasive - Common.

Anagallis arvenis

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Further description & Comment: Low and sprawling, with stems 3 - 6 inches long. A. arvenis has spread from the base of the Mountain up to the elevations of 1000 ft. It's a lovely little invasive, and at this time, seems to be limiting its habitats to disturbed areas immediately alongside the roads and trails, from which it seems impossible to uproot.

A closeup of the 5 - lobed flower, surrounding by developing buds.

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Look for the small, low spreading mats alongside trails.



Trientalis latifolia
Pacific Starflower

Primulaceae (Primrose Family)


Flowers: White to deep-pink, star-like; 5 to 7 petals, 1 to 4 flowers on thin stems.

Blooms: March - May.

Leaves: 3 to 7 per plant, different sizes, all in an umbrella cluster atop a leafless stem.

Fruit/Seeds: Small beads, tan to black.

Location: Damp, shady trails.

Status: Native - Common.

Trientalis latifolia

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Further description & Comment: 2 - 6 inches tall - often found in carpet clusters in shaded areas, especially coniferous woods, and along trails through multi-story plant communities.

Trientalis latifolia can be established easily from seeds or cuttings, but can sometimes be over-aggressive in the home garden, popping up all over the place from underground roots. But if you've already got Anagallis arvenis (Scarlet Pimpernel), you might want to add T. latifolia and let them fight it out.


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