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Marsh Marigold Appreciation

Updated: Jan 23, 2022

Marsh Marigold - Caltha palustris

Marsh Marigold. Photo from Janna Shapero.


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.

Psychedelic Dude

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)

Marsh Marigold visible to human eye.
Marsh Marigold under UV light.

Photos from © Bjørn Rørslett/NN

Valuable Life

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:

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.