Primula veris is a variable evergreen or semi-evergreen perennial plant growing to 25 cm (10 in) tall and broad, with a rosette of leaves 5–15 cm long and 2–6 cm broad. The deep yellow flowers are produced in spring, in clusters of 10-30 blooms together on a single stem. Each flower is 9–15 mm broad. Red- and orange-flowered plants occur rarely but can be locally widespread in areas where coloured primula hybrids bloom at the same time as the native cowslip enabling cross-pollination.
The common name cowslip may derive from the old English for cow dung, probably because the plant was often found growing amongst the manure in cow pastures. An alternative derivation simply refers to slippery or boggy ground; again, a typical habitat for this plant.