Primula mistassinica (Mistassini Primrose)

Plant Info
Also known as: Bird's-eye Primrose, Dwarf Canadian Primrose
Family:Primulaceae (Primrose)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; rock outcrops, cliffs, gravelly shores
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:2 to 6 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: tubular

[photo of flowers] 1 to 5 tubular flowers at the top of a naked stem, each is 1/3 to ¾ inch across and has 5 notched pink to lavender lobes that fade to white at the base, with a yellow ring around the mouth of the tube. 5 stamens are hidden inside the tube.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] A tightly packed rosette of leaves surrounds the flowering stem. Leaves are elliptic to spatula-shaped, ½ to 1¼ inches long, to ½ inch wide, light green, typically with slightly wavy and irregularly toothed edges, the undersides covered with a white or yellowish powder (farina). The flowering stem is brown and wiry and has a textured look to it.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

Fruit is a cylindrical capsule about as long or a little longer than the calyx.


Mistassini Primrose is named for the Canadian lake where it was first discovered; Minnesota is on the southern edge of its range. A delightful flower to run down on craggy wave splashed shores of Lake Superior - but the season is very fleeting. Uncommon in Minnesota, it lives among the rocks with rare species such as the carnivorous butterwort, Pinguicula vulgaris. Also keep in mind when you are out there as such, misplaced steps can damage any fragile member of this marginal community of plants. Please note the image below of Primula farinosa, sold to me by a nursery as P. mistassinica. While very showy it is of European origin and I would plant not another in my Garden. It is gaudy in comparison to our delicate native.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Banning State Park, Pine County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken on the northshore of Lake Gichigami in Lake county.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Carol - Grand Marais
on: 2012-05-03 16:38:51

It is blooming now (3 May) in the rock crevices at Artist's Point.

Posted by: Roger - Banning State Park, Quarry Loop trail
on: 2012-05-07 11:08:44

Blooming on a sandstone rockface on the leg of the Quarry Loop trail nearest the river. Observed 6 May 2012.

Posted by: Rita - Tofte City Park
on: 2012-05-21 19:44:58

Climbing among rocks on Lake Superior shore south of Bluefin Resort - discovered by our son.

Posted by: Elaine - Grand Marais on the rocks near breakwall
on: 2017-06-07 19:37:47

Seem to be at "peak" now.

Posted by: Pam - Grand Marais
on: 2020-05-20 15:16:05

It is blooming now on our shoreline, about 4 miles west of Grand Marais.

Posted by: Jenna Tranum - Banning State Park
on: 2021-04-30 23:24:08

Found a handful blooming on sandstone cliffside along Hells Gate Trail.

Posted by: Peter D - Cook County
on: 2022-06-02 17:51:11

These are blooming with gusto on protected private property at the east end of the county. Later in the summer, butterwort will bloom in the same area.

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