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Caltha palustris (Yellow marsh marigold)
Cressler, Alan

Caltha palustris

Caltha palustris L.

Yellow Marsh Marigold, Cowslip

Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)


USDA Symbol: CAPA5

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), AK (N), CAN (N)

A succulent plant with glossy, heart- or kidney-shaped leaves and a thick, hollow, branching stem with bright, shiny yellow flowers. Yellow marsh-marigold is a mounded perennial, 1-2 ft. tall, with thick stems; broadly heart-shaped leaves; and clusters of large, showy, buttercup-like, yellow flowers.

The flowers of this showy spring plant resemble large buttercups rather than the marigolds. The leaves are sometimes used as potherbs but require several short boilings with changes of water between. They should not be eaten raw. A smaller species, Floating Marsh Marigold (C. natans), found from Alaska southeastward to northern Minnesota, has small white or pinkish flowers, kidney-shaped leaves, and stems that often float.


From the Image Gallery

95 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Fruit Type: Follicle
Size Notes: Up to about 2 feet tall.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Apr , May


USA: AK , CA , CT , DE , IA , IL , IN , KY , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OR , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV
Canada: BC , MB , NB , NL , NS , ON , PE , QC
Native Distribution: Transcontinental Canada, s. to NC, TN & IA
Native Habitat: Wet woods, marshy hollows, stream edges

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Wet
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Muddy, humus-rich soil.
Conditions Comments: Marsh marigold requires little care other than protection from drying, winter and early spring winds.


Use Food: EDIBLE PARTS: Cooked, early spring greens are edible. Cover the young leaves with 2-3 changes of boiling water until barely tender; cut into bite-sized pieces, salt lightly, and cover with butter and some vinegar. Tightly closed buds can be pickled after covering with boiling water as described for leaves. Do not boil. The leaves are sometimes used as potherbs but require several short boilings with changes of water between. (Niering)
Warning: Plant juices can cause blistering or inflammation on skin or mucous membranes on contact, and gastric illness if ingested. POISONOUS PARTS: Leaves. Toxic only in large quantities. Symptoms include burning of the throat, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, dizziness, fainting, and convulsions. Toxic Principle: Protoanemonin. (Niering)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds


Description: Seeds should be sown immediately upon ripening and should not be allowed to dry out before sowing. Seedlings do not flower until the third year following germination. Also reproduces rapidly by division.
Seed Collection: Approximate collection date in northern U.S.: early to mid Jun.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Caltha palustris in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Caltha palustris in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Caltha palustris


Record Modified: 2023-01-31
Research By: TWC Staff

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