Local Beaverkill Valley residents Patricia Adams and Janet Nelson both spotted the same wildflowers blooming this Spring along the river…their reflections on the origin and identification of this species below…. 


I first noticed them about four years ago.  Pretty little yellow flowers springing up along the creek that follows Campsite Road and flows into the Beaverkill just below Duke and Kate’s house. I called them Trout Lilies at first, but soon learned that was incorrect. Then I called them Primroses, which isn’t exactly wrong—they are in the Primrose family. 

I had a hard time identifying them because I had seen very few over the years.  But last spring, Mermer Blakeslee told me they were Cowslips, which was a common flower in England but has declined over the years. These flowers had been planted here by Hazel Kelly, perhaps as a reminder of her childhood in England. John Kelly confirmed this (and also confirmed that they are Cowslips, not Primroses).

The Kelly’s have a wonderful house up in Larroway Hollow, that is totally ‘off the grid’. No electricity, delicious cold spring fed water beside the house, a hand built stone and wood out building, and wonderful gardens that Hazel and John developed over the years they spent summers there. The Cowslips have proliferated downstream, along what Timothy Foote told me is the ‘Schoolhouse Brook”, because it flowed  down from Larroway Hollow past the one room  Beaverkill School.(now gone with a modern house on the site)   The stream crosses under the road just where Campsite Road intersects with Beaverkill Road.

These beautiful little flowers are throughout our part of the Beaverkill Valley – but you don’t see them on other brooks or rivers. There are none along Berry Brook or over on the Willoweemoc. The ones you see have traveled downstream from the Kelly’s and taken residence along the river, the roads and through the campsite on the east side of the Beaverkill. 

I checked on Cowslips. They  are native British wildflowers and are actually named after cow ‘piles. They flourished on English farmland back in the days when livestock was an important source of fertilizer.  As farming methods ‘improved’,by plowing old grasslands and using herbicides,  they declined. Cowslips provide nectar in the Spring, and attract bees, moths and butterflies. They can be eaten raw in salads or cooked as a vegetable. The flowers can be eaten fresh with cream or brewed into tea. 

These flowers are a gift from Hazel and a reminder of things that grow in England.


Patricia had told us there were cowslips growing along Schoolhouse Brook, seeded from Hazel Kelly’s garden in Larroway hollow. The Cowslips I had known as a child in England had grown in the open meadows rather than in shady woods and a little research on the internet proved we were right . Cowslip flowers are bell-shaped and are a rich yellow color; they have a distinct apricot smell. 

Oxlip flowers are a paler yellow and open more like a primrose, all three are in the primula family and have confusing similarities. We were not able to find where else oxlips grow wild in the US. In England,  cowslips grow where cows graze, and oxslips are found mostly in the eastern counties of Essex and Suffolk. They also grow in Norway and western Russia but don’t seem to be widespread elsewhere.

The flowers we have here along the Beaverkill look to be Oxlips, rather than Cowslips. Both are rare and even endangered in some places. So, we’re lucky to have whatever they are- bright yellow spring flowers – along with the daffodils, the first spring bloom. 

A link that distinguished the two flowers is. http://www.uksafari.com/cowslips_or_oxlips.htm