Marsh Marigold

Caltha palustris Ranunculaceae

Other names

Cowslip, Meadow-Bright, Kingcup, May-Blob

Growth habit


Native distribution

Native to the Finger Lakes Region, Newfndl. to AK South to NC & TN; Eurasia.


An 8-12" plant with yellow flowers.
Light: sun to part shade
Moisture and Soil: moist to wet soil


Seed Treatment and Storage: seed germinates best if cold/moist stratified for 60-90 days

Biocultural value

The young leaves and stems of marsh marigold are edible after thorough boiling and at least one change of water. Pickled, the young flowerbuds are said to make a good substitute for capers. Marsh marigold was used by the Abnaki, Chippewa, Haudenosaunee, Menominee, and others as both a poison and a food. The Haudenosaunee used the Marsh Marigold to induce vomiting and as a defense against love charms.

The statements above were sourced from:

Native American Ethnobotany Database: http://naeb.BRIT Native American Ethnobotany

Wildlife value

Marsh marigolds are primarily pollinated by pollen-seeking syrphid flies (Neoascia spp., Xylota spp., and Lejops spp.), although the flowers are also visited by a number of small- and mid-sized bees. Ants (family Formicidae) and cuckoo bees (Nomada spp.) collect marsh marigold nectar. Mammalian herbivores avoid the acrid leaves.

Climate change sensitivity

Over the period from 1986 to 2015, Caltha palustris bloomed an average of 5.8 days earlier.



Poisonous description

Marsh marigold leaves are poisonous to livestock and humans due to the presence of protoanemonin, an oily toxin found in all plants of the Ranunculaceae family. Protoanemonin is released by damaged plants and can cause skin irritation. If ingested, it can induce convulsions and lesions throughout the digestive tract. Young plants are less poisonous than mature ones.


Mundy Wildflower Garden, Treman Woodland Walk, McDaniel Meadow, Woods, and Swamp, McLean Bogs, Eames Bog, Purvis Road Wetlands Natural Area, Ringwood Ponds

Source of plant

Shady Oaks Nursery, Bluebird Nursery Inc., William Tricker Inc., Panfield Nurseries Inc.


Graceful mound of shining rounded leaves is topped with brownish branching stems covered with single flowers filled with rich yellow stamens. Plants 18" tall.

USDA Hardiness Zone


Special characteristics

This showy flower carpets wetlands throughout early spring. The petals, which look bright yellow to humans, actually appear purple to bees.