It becomes most luxuriant in partial shade, but is rare on peat. In the UK, it is probably one of the most ancient British native plants, surviving the glaciations and flourishing after the last retreat of the ice, in a landscape inundated with glacial meltwaters.
Height is up to 80 centimetres (31 in) tall. The leaves are rounded to kidney-shaped, 3–20 centimetres (1.2–7.9 in) across, with a bluntly serrated margin and a thick, waxy texture. Stems are hollow.
The flowers are yellow, 2–5 cm (1–2 in) diameter, with 4-9 (mostly 5) petal-like sepels and many yellow stamens; they appear in early spring to late summer. The flowers are visited by a great variety of insects for pollen and for the nectar secreted from small depressions, one on each side of each carpel.
Carpels form into green sac-like follicles to 1 cm long, each opening to release several seeds.
Caltha palustris is a highly polymorphic species, showing continuous and independent variation in many features. Forms in the UK may be divided into two subspecies: Caltha palustris subsp. palustris, and Caltha palustris subsp. minor.
It is sometimes considered a weed in clayey garden soils, where every piece of its root will survive and spread. In warm free-draining soils, it simply dies away.As is the case with many members of the Ranunculaceae, all parts of the plant are poisonous and can be irritant. Skin rashes and dermatitis have been reported from excessive handling of the plant.
Other names and etymologyEdit
In the UK, Caltha palustris is known by a variety of common names, varying by geographical region. These include Marsh Marigold and Kingcup (the two most frequently used common names), Mayflower, May Blobs, Mollyblobs, Pollyblobs, Horse Blob, Water Blobs, Water Bubbles, Gollins and the Publican. The common name of marigold refers to its use churches in medieval times at Easter time as a tribute to the Virgin Mary, as in Mary gold.
The specific name palustris, Latin for "of the marsh", indicates its common habitat. Richard Mabey, in Flora Britannica, describes Caltha palustris thus:
"Marsh-marigolds are in decline as agricultural land continues to be drained, but they are still the most three-dimensional of plants, their fleshy leaves and shiny petals impervious to wind and snow, and standing in sharp relief against the tousled brown of frostbitten grasses. Most of the plant's surviving local names - water-blobs, molly-blobs, water-bubbles - reflect this solidity, especially the splendid, rotund 'the publican' from Lancashire." EnlargeCaltha palustris flowersIn North America Caltha palustris is sometimes known as cowslip. However, cowslip more often refers to primula veris, the original plant to go by that name. Both are herbaceous plants with yellow flowers, but Primula veris is much smaller.
Caltha palustris is a plant commonly mentioned in literature, including Shakespeare:
- Winking Marybuds begin
- To open their golden eyes
Kingcup Cottage by Racey Helps is a children's book which features the plant.
In Lativa Caltha palustris is also known as Gundega which is also used as a girls name which symbolizes fire. The word Gundega is made from 2 words - uguns (fire) and dega (burned). This refers to the burning reaction that some people experience from contact with Caltha sap