AppearanceHerbaceous species with a short (1-2 cm long) woody stem at the base, wrapped in the dead leaves of previous years; leaves all basal in rosette, small (4-8 x 8-18 mm), foliar lamina of variable shape (from oblanceolate to obovate-spatulate), with 5-9 obtuse notches (placed in the apical portion) and more or less wedge-shaped base, the leaves are also bright green, covered on both sides with thick glandular hairs; hermaphrodite flowers, inserted directly in the centre of the foliar rosette, calyx with sharp triangular teeth, rather large corolla (diameter: 15-25 mm in diameter), especially if related to the small size of the stem, divided in five bifid lobes; corollary lobes of variable colour from pale lilac to violet-pink up to pinkish-white, with a white spot at the base; fruit formed by a dehiscent unilocular capsule, shorter than the calyx and carried by a very short scape (4-8 mm) which comes to complete development only when the antheses are finished.
FloweringFebruary-May depending on altitude and exposure.
HabitatMinor cracks in the limestone cliffs (lithophyte), especially in the proximity of gullies and on permanently wet rock, sometimes even in cave vaults, it grows mostly in mountainous zones and in the supra-Mediterranean belt (700-1400 m), but locally (in favourable pedoclimatic conditions), it can grow up to sub-alpine heights (around 2000/2100 m in the Bec d'Orel massif) or lower (in particularly cool environments) such as the hills and the upper meso-Mediterranean belt.
DistributionSub-endemic species present only in Piedmont, previous reports from Liguria are to be considered erroneous. In fact the localities of the upper Val Roya (near Saorge, San Dalmazzo di Tenda and Granile) administratively Ligurian until 1859, were later included in the Province of Cuneo and then annexed to France by the Treaty of Paris (1947). Very localized species but usually very frequent where it is found growing (mostly concentrated in Valle Gesso).
EtymologyThe name of the genus Primula (1753) clearly refers to the precocity of flowering, which characterizes most species of the genus. The Primula allionii Loisel is dedicated to the Turin botanist and flower enthusiast Carlo Allioni (1728-1804), author of a masterful "Flora Pedemontana" (1785), the first important work to make the Linnean system popular in Italy.
CuriosityPrimula allionii Loisel. is in all probability a pre-glacial relict, a remnant of a subtropical-mountain vegetation belt (humid and relatively warm climate) extinguished after the quaternary glaciations, its current area is (in all probability) what remains of a larger tertiary area, which included both sides of the south-western Alps, in this regard it is rather peculiar that there are almost no geographically intermediate sites, connecting the southern core of Val Roya to the northern core of Val Gesso.
ProtectionIncluded in the "Red Book of Italian Plants", classified as "LR" ("lower risk") and protected in Piedmont by the Regional Law L.R. n. 32 of 2 November 1982 : "Rules for the conservation of the natural heritage and the environmental order".
Endemism: endemic species are animals or plants living exclusively in a given territory. When this is very limited, we speak of "restricted" endemism. "Endemic" is not necessarily synonymous with "rare": rare species may have few individuals distributed over large areas, an endemic species can also be abundant in a given area, but be limited to that single territory.