Marsh Marigold

(Ranunculaceae)

The Marsh Marigold is an herbaceous perennial growing to 80 cm tall. and is found in wet woodlands and damp meadows as well as along stream banks. It also makes a beautiful addition to a garden pond

Description

This hairless, stout wildflower resembles a buttercup, as it is from the same family. However, the Marsh Marigold flowers are larger 15-50mm across with 5 petal-like sepals and many yellow stamens and are more golden yellow in colour.

The dark green leaves are large and kidney-shaped with a glossy appearance, usually with two lobes at the base and the stems are long and hollow. The leaves are small when the flowers are in abundance but they will keep on growing larger, around 10 cm across, whenever the flowers fade. The sepal is usually green and is the leaf-like structure that encloses and protects the unopened flower bud. For many plants, these sepals open out and drop to reveal the petals underneath.

What’s in a name!

Marsh Marigold has many different common names but is most often referred to as King Cup, May-blobs, Water-bubbles or Water Cowslip, Its Irish name is Lus buí Bealtaine

Position

The Marsh Marigold does especially well as a marginal plant in very shallow water or at the water's edge in semi-shade or full sun. A very rewarding bog plant that can be grown in the garden as well as in a rock garden that is kept moist. In the spring it will produce a profusion of rich yellow blooms. They can be divided after flowering.

Propagation

Marsh Marigold can be propagated by sowing fresh seed in the summer although if grown in this way they usually won’t bloom until the following year. Seed is not widely available as it needs to be sown fresh, but some specialist wild flower suppliers do stock it. Dividing root clumps before flowers appear in early spring or when plants are dormant in summer is probably the easiest way to propagate Marsh Marigold. It is widely dispersed by reseeding itself in situ.

Folklore and medicinal uses

The common name Marigold came about due its use in church festivals in the Middle Ages, as one of the flowers devoted to the Virgin Mary. The name Mayflower comes from the custom (which is still practised in the Isle of Man) of bringing the flowers into the house and strewing them on doorsteps on Old May Eve As is the case with many members of the Ranunculaceae, all parts of the plant contains harmful toxins and an alkaloid poison. Skin rashes and dermatitis have been reported from excessive handling of the plant. Although it is poisonous when raw, the stems, leaves and roots are sometimes cooked and eaten as a vegetable. Marsh Marigold has been used for medicinal purposes to remove warts and is also used in the treatment of fits and anaemia. Various preparations of the roots are used in the treatment of colds and sores and a tea made from the leaves will act as a laxative.

In the wild

The Marsh Marigold is one of the first wetland wildflowers to bloom early in the spring. It grows in wet, boggy places, such as marshes, fens, ditches and wet woods. This makes it a welcome early source of pollen and nectar for many insects such as the Syrphid fly and the Giant Bee Fly (Bombylius major), the Halictid bee and the Honeybee. it creates an excellent ground cover and provides shelter for frogs and other water side inhabitants. 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 melt waters.