Caltha natans

Floating Marsh Marigold

Photo courtesy of Wisconsin State Herbarium and  William S. Alverson
Floating Marsh Marigold
Photo courtesy of Wisconsin State Herbarium and William S. Alverson

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods


  • Caltha, from the Latin, "cup", Greek name for some yellow-flowered plants
  • natans, from the Latin, natare, "to swim, to float"
  • Floating Marsh Marigold, from its preferred habitat and the Anglo-Saxon marigold, "marsh gold"


  • Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
    • Division Magnoliophyta, the Angiosperms (flowering plants)
      • Class Magnoliopsida, the Dicotyledons
      • Subclass Magnoliidae
        • Order Ranunculales, the Buttercups
          • Family Ranunculaceae, the Buttercups, with Anemone, Clematis, Coptis (Gold Thread), Delphinium (Larkspurs), Hepatica, Ranunculus (Buttercups), and Thalictrum (Meadow Rues).
            • Genus Caltha, the Marsh Marigolds
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 18456
  • Also known as: Thacla natans
  • Unlike other species of Caltha in North America, Caltha natans is relatively invariable morphologically and has not been divided into segregate taxa.


  • A plant of boggy soils and shallow pond margins
  • Leaves basal, blade ovate to kidney or heart-shaped; up to 1"x2", margins nearly entire.
  • Stems leafy, floating, or creeping, rooting at nodes.
  • Roots
  • Flowers 2-6, ¼"-½" in diameter.
    • Sepals sepals white or pinkish, 4-7(-8) mm.
    • Petals
    • Stamens
    • Pistil style and stigma curved, 0.1-0.4 mm
    • Ovary superior (within blossom)
  • Fruit a folicle, widely spreading, sessile, and oblong
  • Seeds broadly elliptic, 0.5-0.8 mm


  • Distinguished from the closely related, and much more common Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) by its white rather than yellow flowers and its growth habit of floating on shallow waters rather than being anchored in wet soil.


  • Circumboreal; Ontario to Alaska, south to Minnesota and Wisconsin. Also Eurasia.
  • Status


  • Floating or on moist mud, ponds, lakes, slow-moving rivers and streams.
  • Wet, open shorelines of quiet streams or ponds





  • Sexually by seed
  • Flowering late spring-summer (June-August)


  • By dividing root clump.
  • By seed
    • Best sown as soon as ripe in cold frame in late summer. Stand pots in ¾"-1¼" of water to keep the soil wet
    • Germinates in 1-3 months at 15C
    • Divide in early spring or autumn


  • Hardy to USDA Zone 3 (average minimum annual temperature -40ºF)
  • Cultural Requirements
    • Sun full
    • Soil boggy, rich, slightly acidic; grows well in heavy clay soils.
    • Water shallow



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Last updated on 14 April, 2004