Primrose by any other name, is …

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 1, 2013

I smiled when I saw them, but felt a little sad at the same time. The sight of delicate pink blossoms with yellow centers stirring in the breeze among some greenery along Louisiana highways brought back memories of the playful arguments my late husband and I had about them every spring. We often spotted them dancing in the breeze or gathered in clusters somewhere along the way as we drove to Tannehill Historic State Park. He called them buttercups; I insisted they were primroses. Neither of us gave in to the other because we both knew we were right.

We saw them together first as we towed our RV on the Interstate. I pointed to a clump of the pretty wildflowers and exclaimed, “Oh look, primroses!” My husband immediately informed me those pink flowers were buttercups. He had vivid memories from his school days. He said he remembered pulling several at numerous times and showing them to girls at school for them to admire. When they moved closer to smell them, he pushed the blossoms against their faces to leave the yellow pollen smeared on their chins. I thought that he probably ran away laughing, while the girls rubbed the stuff off their faces and muttered about what a bad boy he was. He never said. I never asked; I was too determined to convince him those flowers he called buttercups were primroses.

Who told me they were primroses? My mother, maybe, I just didn’t remember. I knew they appeared every May along with patches of Johnson grass across from the Southern Railway depot near our house in Littleton, Ala. Sometimes I picked my way barefooted on the red rock road to gather a few although I knew they wilted almost instantly. Beautiful clinging roses and honeysuckle vines grew near the playground of the school I attended at Sayre, a near-by community, but those dainty, fragile wildflowers that cropped up among weeds along the roadside were always my favorites. One year when a photographer came to take our school pictures, some of us gathered clinging roses and made a headband of them to pose for our pictures. I would have preferred a garland of primroses, but none were available.

When I saw the slightly larger, deeper pink Louisiana primroses recently, I decided to turn to the Internet. I found yellow buttercups and some different flowers called primroses, but none of the pictures matched the ones I searched for. I next tried my son’s extensive library, finally digging out a beautifully illustrated wildflower book I thought might help. No luck. I turned to the Internet again, that time trying several sites relating to Alabama wildflowers. Actually I figure they are weeds, but I tried anyway. I found a lot of beautiful wildflowers, some I had seen, others I had not. Then I found a photo of a cluster of the flowers I sought, labeled “pink primrose.”

Despite that confirmation, I’ll always think “buttercups,” too, when I see primroses.