Updated: Jan 23, 2022
Marsh Marigold - Caltha palustris
Native to North America the Marsh Marigold is a perennial, spring ephemeral (see Trout Lily post to learn about ephemerals) Marsh Marigold disappears for summer if the area it grows in dries up.
Marsh Marigold loves to have it's roots down in rich mud. Find it growing in marshes, swamps, river and lake edges. Often growing in loose colonies in sunny - partially shaded areas.
Let the Rain Fall Down
Not many plants use rain as their method of seed dispersal. Rain actually helps Marsh Marigold spread their seed! When a raindrop hits the follicle holding the seeds in juuust the right way - the seeds dispel.
That is not all - Marsh Marigold seeds have a spongy coat that helps them float until they find a place to call home.
These plants can disperse up to 200 seeds in their growing season. Slow to germinate & slow to mature. You won’t see the beautiful yellow flowers until the plant is 3 years old.
To the human eye Marsh Marigold has beautiful, showy, yellow flowers. Though to many pollinators these yellow flowers reflect an ultra violet pattern that is unseen to the human eye.
This is believed to make the flowers more attractive to pollinators. The UV pattern is called a “Nectar Guide” acting like how it sounds - the pattern shows the pollinator where they can hit the jackpot!
Honey Bees are known for their ability to see ultra violet flowers - this leverage aids their ability to pollinate. With so much work to get done in a day, they can’t be wasting time looking for the right place to go.
Did you know ¾ of the world’s flowering plants rely on animal pollinators to reproduce? (bees & other insects, birds, bats)
Photos from © Bjørn Rørslett/NN
My favourite place to be at dusk during the Spring is the wetland I hang out at. It’s always a thrill sitting on the edge of the marsh before the sun has set - it’s booming with life! You can't deny a wetlands value after spending time observing one. If you haven’t yet, you should visit your local wetlands.
I am grateful to live among an oasis. Ontario is home to 65% of Canada’s wetlands. Canada is home to 6% of the world's wetlands.
Different types of wetlands have their own unique ecosystems. All of them are beneficial to life.
Wetlands benefit water and air quality, provide habitat to local and migrating wildlife, store floodwaters, reduce erosion, cycle nutrients and more! This topic can be as complex as you want to make it. If you don’t know anything about wetlands, I encourage you research their importance. It’s a rabbit hole...from topics on ephemeral wetlands, fairy shrimp, bogs, swamps, loss of wetlands, how they support human life and tons more.
There is some great information provided by the Nature Conservancy of Canada: https://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/blog/the-importance-of-wetlands.html
It’s incredible this cycle of life that happens outside our doors. As we hike trails and gaze at the natural world around us, there is so much silent work being done. As a wetland plant Marsh Marigold is always working hard.
Plants are the foundation of the food web. Even though Marsh Marigold’s leaves aren’t exactly a tasty treat due to their high amounts of alkaloids and glycosides - the seeds are foraged by birds, chipmunks, and other wildlife.
Marsh Marigold’s work continues as the plant breaks down and decomposes. These broken down plant materials are consumed by other organisms and feed the Earth with nutrients year after year. Now that is some important work.
*The world's wetlands are under threat. Less than 30% of the original wetlands remain in southern Ontario. Only 10% remain in the Niagara & Toronto region. There are many contributing factors to this loss including; Drainage for land development & conversion, invasive species, pollution, changing climate and artificial water levels. To learn more about wetland concerns and how you can help, click here)
A Frog's Companion
Marsh Marigold is a member of the Buttercup family. The Latin term for this family is Ranunculaceae. Ranunculus is the Latin word for “Little Frog.” One could say this refers to the species growing where frogs are found.
The relationship between Marsh Marigold and frogs is undeniable. As a plant that grows in shallow water, Marsh Marigold lives in ecosystems that frogs breed in. The large, almost bushy-like foliage provides shelter to frogs.
The painting shown was done by trained flower artist, Maria Sibylla Merian. It’s estimated it was painted sometime between 1705-10. From an early age Maria was fascinated with the life cycles of insects. She dedicated her life to researching metamorphosis.
I find it so beautiful that in her studies she painted Marsh Marigold along with the life cycle of a frog. Over 300 years ago Maria too found joy in the relationship of these two beings. I admit, it brings tears to my eyes.
Okay I feel bad calling a plant "evil" ... but it's suiting for this situation.
To the untrained eye, it’s easy to be fooled by the plant Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria). It appears early in the Spring, has similar foliage and flowers. Though there are some indicating factors that the plant you are looking at is not in fact, Marsh Marigold.
Lesser Celandine has much smaller leaves, grows like a carpet across the forest floor, has more petals on the flower and has balls. Yes, balls.
Lesser Celandine is an invasive species and threatens the life of native plants such as Marsh Marigold, Trilliums (Trillium spp.), Blood Root (Sanguinaria canadensis) & Spring Beauties (Claytonia spp.)
The plant produces rapidly by seeds and through it’s “bulbils” (plant balls). Growing in extremely dense populations, Lesser Celandine creates a monoculture. Negatively impacting biodiversity and forcing the native plants & animals out of the space.
There is so much to love about Marsh Marigold!
I’m not going to lie, researching Marsh Marigold had me shook. I mean...I know everything is connected. Still, this concept often floats by me in a “I feel this all deeply and through this, have a strong sense of these connections” kind of way.
I was feeling stressed - how can I possibly help my readers understand just how connected Marsh Marigold is.
Marsh Marigold is connected to the frogs, pollinators, wetlands, clean air & water, soil health and so much more! Just this one plant. Nature is incredible.
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Armstrong, Nicholas. “The Importance of Wetlands.” NCC: The Importance of Wetlands, www.natureconservancy.ca/en/blog/the-importance-of-wetlands.html.
“Botanary.” Dave's Garden, davesgarden.com/guides/botanary/search.php?search_text=Ranunculus.
“Caltha Palustris.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Apr. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caltha_palustris.
“Luontoportti.” Marsh Marigold, Caltha Palustris - Flowers - NatureGate, www.luontoportti.com/suomi/en/kukkakasvit/marsh-marigold.
“Nectar Guide.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 8 Aug. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nectar_guide.
Nuffer, Barbara. Marsh Marigold. www.dec.ny.gov/docs/administration_pdf/0410mrshmargld.pdf.
“Pollination.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 8 May 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollination#By_rain.
Riddle, Sharla. “How Bees See And Why It Matters.” Bee Culture -, 20 May 2016, www.beeculture.com/bees-see-matters/.
Ultraviolet Flowers: Caltha Palustris, www.naturfotograf.com/UV_CALT_PAL.html.
“Wetlands: Ontario Nature: Environmental Conservation Organization.” Ontario Nature, ontarionature.org/campaigns/wetlands/.