Caltha is the Latin name of the Marigold.

A low, bunched, perennial plant, common in marshes and wet places, blooming in early spring and bearing clusters of brilliant yellow flowers of the buttercup type. Newfoundland to the Rocky Mountains, south to Iowa and South Carolina. Common in northern Ohio. April, May.


Stout, smooth, succulent, hollow, one to two feet high, branched at the top.


Basal leaves on long, broad petioles, heart-shaped or kidney-shaped, entire or crenate, broader than long; stem-leaves short-petioled or sessile. Often used as a pot-herb.


Of buttercup type, brilliant yellow, borne in few-flowered clusters, either terminal or axillary.


Of five to nine, broad, oval sepals that look like petals, brilliant yellow, imbricated in bud.




Many; both filaments and anthers bright yellow.


Five to ten carpels, ripening into many-seeded follicles.

Pollinated by flies and bees. Nectar-bearing. Anthers and stigmas mature at the same time.

Caltha palustris is not a Marigold, and still less is it a Cowslip, but both names designate it. The Indian name Onondaga," it blooms in the swamps," is best of all if we could only make up our minds to use it. The English species has the pretty name King-Cup, but, though celebrated in English verse, it seems never to have come overseas to us.

This early plant, growing along the wet borders of streams and marshes, is an example of vigorous, healthy growth; its stout, succulent stem, its large green leaves, and, above all, its golden flowers distinguish it among all the surrounding vegetation.

These vary from one and a half to two inches across and grow in loose few-flowered clusters. The blossoms are gloriously yellow, there are no dark lines guiding to nectar, sometimes a greenish cast overshadows the flower, but usually its yellow is undimmed. The nectar lies open so that the flies and bees find it without any especial directions. Although the anthers and stigmas mature at the same time, the anthers open outwardly and the outermost ones, farthest from the stigmas, open first, so that the insects seeking nectar scramble over the open ones and bear the pollen to the waiting stigmas.

Marsh Marigold. Caltha palustris

Marsh-Marigold. Caltha palustris

T. W. Higginson writes in Outdoor Studies: "One afternoon last spring I had been walking through a copse of young white birches - their leaves scarce yet apparent - over a ground delicate with Wood-Anemones, moist and mottled with Dog's-Tooth Violet leaves and spangled with the clusters of Claytonia or Spring-Beauty. All this was floored with last year's faded foliage, giving a singular bareness and whiteness to the foreground. Suddenly, as if entering a cavern, I stepped through the edge of all this into a dark little amphitheatre beneath a hemlock grove, where the afternoon sunlight struck broadly through the trees upon a tiny stream and a miniature swamp - this last being intensely and luridly green, yet overlaid with the pale gray of last year's weeds, and absolutely flaming with the gayest yellow light from great clumps of Cowslips. The illumination seemed perfectly weird and dazzling; the spirit of the place appeared live, mild, fantastic, almost human. Now open your Tennyson and read: 'The wild Marsh-Marigold shines like fire in swamps and hollows gray.' "