Scientific Name:Primula auricula cv. (Primula x pubescens)
Common Name: Auricula Primrose
Thomas Jefferson mentioned auricula many times in his letters and garden diary, and he received divisions from Bernard McMahon in 1807.1 The species auricula, also known as "Bear's Ear," is an alpine flower that was known by the Romans. From the early writings of Clusius, Gerard, and others we know that central Europeans had hybridized Primula auricula with the rose-colored P. hirsuta. These robust hybrids became known as the "garden auricula," P. x pubescens, and were popular plants for pots and parterres in the 16th century.2 By 1665, the auricula flower had reached a high degree of development, an invention of the English working class as "florist flowers."3
The auricula primrose is a hardy, spring-flowering perennial with umbels of large, flat, richly-colored flowers ranging from maroon-carmine, coral pink, and deep orange, to maroon-black with primrose yellow centers.
- Peggy Cornett, n.d.
Primary Source References
1767 April 2. (Entry in Garden Book). "... sowed ... Auricula ...."4
1786 August 12. (Jefferson to Richard Cary). "Having thought it best to put off getting the articles till the bearer of this was setting out, they have disappointed me of Carnations, Auricules, Tuberoses, Hyacinth and Belladonna lillies which I had ordered."5
1807 February 25. (Bernard McMahon to Jefferson). "Of Auriculas we have none here worth a cent, but I expect some good ones from London this spring; if they come safe, you shall have a division next season."6
1809 February 8. (Jefferson to McMahon). "I will ask the favor of the bill at the same time, the amount of which shall be immediately remitted you. ... Auricula."7
1811 March 10. (McMahon to Jefferson). "dbleAnemone. Auricula ... seeds. dble Anemone Auricula."8
1811 April 8. (Jefferson to McMahon). "I have an extensive flower border, in which I am fond of placing handsome plants or fragrant—those of mere curiosity I do not aim at, having too many other cares to bestow more than a moderate attention to them. in this I have placed the seeds you were so kind as to send me last. in it I have also growing the fine tulips, hyacinths, tuberoses & Amaryllis you formerly sent me. my wants there are Anemones, Auriculas, Ranunculus, Crown Imperials & Carnations."9
1812 February 16. (Jefferson to McMahon). "dbleAnemone. Auricula ... seeds. dble Anemone Auricula."10
1812 February 28. (McMahon to Jefferson). "This morning I done myself the pleasure of sending you by Mr Gilmer a box containing the following articles ... 6 pots of Auriculas, different kinds."11
1812 December 1. (McMahon to Jefferson). "I also do myself the pleasure of enclosing you some superior China Pink and Auricula seeds; the latter should be sown some time in this month, as directed in page 646 of my work on Gardening."12
1813 January 11. (Jefferson to McMahon). "I have too long delayed returning you thanks for your favors of Nov. 24. & Dec. 1. and the hyacinth roots with the seeds of the China pink, Auricula, & fiorin grass which came safely to hand."13
8.PTJ:RS, 3:439-40. Transcription available at Founders Online. The excerpt noted here is in Jefferson's hand at the bottom of McMahon's letter, and is considered to be a draft of Jefferson's letter to McMahon of February 16, 1812.