Caltha palustris

Marsh Marigold

Caltha palustris, Marsh Marigold, at RookSwan House, Photo copyright by Earl J.S. Rook
Marsh Marigold
Photo © by Earl J.S. Rook

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


  • Caltha, from the Latin, "cup"Greek name for some yellow-flowered plants
  • palustris, from the Latin, paluster, "boggy, marshy"
  • Marsh Marigold, from its prefered habitat and the Anglo-Saxon marigold, "marsh gold"
  • Other common names include Cowflock, Cowslip, Kingcup, populage des marais, soucis d'eau (Qué), Eng-Kabbeleje (Dan), Varsakabi, Konnakapsas, Ahunalill, Kanakool, Latiklill (Est), Rentukka (ssp. palustris), Purorentukka (ssp. arctica) (Fin), Lus Buidhe Bealltainn (Gaelic), Sumpfdotterblume (Ger), Mocsári gólyahír (Hun), Hófsóley (Is), Calta, Farferugine (It), Dotterbloem (NL), Soleihov (Nor), Záruzlie Močiarne (Slovak), Kabbleka, Kabbeleka, Kalfleka, Revkabbleka (Swe)


  • 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: 18454
  • Also known as: Caltha arctica, Caltha asarifolia, Caltha palustris ssp. arctica, Caltha palustris ssp. asarifolia, Caltha palustris var. arctica, Caltha palustris var. asarifolia, Caltha palustris var. flabellifolia
  • Caltha palustris has been divided into different taxa, although plants have been most commonly assigned to two varieties in North America:
    • Typical Caltha palustris var. palustris, characterized by stout, permanently upright stems that do not produce roots and shoots at the nodes after anthesis. The basal leaves are broadly heart-shaped to kidney-shaped with coarsely crenate-dentate margins and overlapping basal lobes. Generally more than three flowers occur on a stem.
    • Caltha palustris var. flabellifolia (AKA var. arctica or var. radicans) characterized by stems that sprawl with age and produce roots and shoots at the nodes after anthesis. The basal leaves are more-or-less kidney-shaped with denticulate margins, and the basal lobes are widely divergent and do not overlap. Often fewer than three flowers occur on a stem. Var. flabellifolia is distributed locally throughout the range of Caltha palustris var. palustris, often in areas of more extreme environmental conditions, such as shorelines, tidal areas, swiftly running streams and rivers, and areas with an arctic climate.


  • A hardy, succulent perennial of marsh and waterside
  • Leaves rounded, heart, or kidney-shaped, dark green, 3"-7" wide, usually with two lobes at base
  • Stems hollow, 8"-24" tall, mostly arising from the base
  • Roots deep, tangled
  • Flowers in clusters of 1-7, cup-shaped, waxy yellow, 1"-2" wide, on long stalks above the foliage in early spring.
    • Sepals 5, yellow
    • Petals absent
    • Stamens many
    • Pistils 4-15
    • Ovary superior (within blossom)
  • Fruit a folicle
  • Seeds elliptic, 1.5mm-2.5 mm


  • Distinguished from other species by its broad, heart or kidney shaped leaves, and, in spring, by its bright yellow blossoms.
  • Distinguished from the closely related, and in the North Country extremely rare, Floating Marsh Marigold (Caltha natans), by its yellow rather than white flowers and its growth habit of being anchored in wet soil rather than floating on shallow waters.
  • Field Marks
    • loose clumps of heart or kidney shaped leaves
    • bright yellow, buttercup like blossoms in early spring


  • Circumboreal; south to North Carolina, Tennesse, Iowa, Nebraska, and Oregon. Also Eurasia.


  • Edges of ponds and moist soils; shallow waters, hardwood swamps.
  • Marshes, fens, ditches, wet woods and swamps, thriving best in open or only partly shaded sites



  • Native Americans used various preparations of the roots to treat colds and sores, as an aid in childbirth and to induce vomiting, and as a protection against love charms; infusions of leaves were taken for constipation.


  • Planted as an ornamental in water gardens


  • By seed
  • Flowers March to June


  • By dividing root clumps, before flowers appear in early spring or when plants are dormant in summer.
  • By seed sown in early summer, as soon as it is ripe. (Double forms do not breed true from seed). Seed-grown plants tend not bloom until second year.


  • Hardy to USDA Zone 3 (average minimum annual temperature -40ºF)
  • Cultural Requirements
    • Full sun or part shade
    • Wet, humus-rich, acid soil (pH 5.0-7.0).
    • Water to 6"
    • Spacing 12"-18"
  • Size 12"-18"W x 12"-18"H
  • Growth rate moderate. Entire plant dies to the ground by midsummer.
  • Good for stream banks, shallow pond margins, and wet bog gardens.
  • Cultivars include
    • variety 'Alba', with white flowers
    • variety 'Plena', with large double flowers
  • Cultivars and species available by mail order from specialty suppliers or at local nurseries stocking plants for water gardening.



  • Often the first flower to bloom in the early spring bog garden.

Valley Internet Company
Return to Home Page
Send Feedback to Webmaster

Last updated on 14 April, 2004